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Pakistan junior hockey team manager Olympian Qamar Ibrahim has said that he was targeting 2019 Asia Cup and 2020 Junior World Cup.

He said Pakistan juniors would play five matches against Olympic champions Argentina and in April they would participate in Australia’s national under-21 domestic championship as part of their training.

He said they had high hopes of the current junior team because “these talented” players won the Australian national under-18 championship in Hobart last year. He said the players had potential to excel in modern-day hockey.

The Australian domestic hockey is considered the most competitive in the world, he added.The newly-appointed manager said that after training in Karachi, the team would go to Argentina next month.

The PHF took this decision of pitting the junior team against the senior team of Argentina, in order to expose them to advanced-level hockey. He said that both junior and senior strings lacked international experience. “Our teams play directly in big events and so lose without putting up much of a fight. It is because no strong foreign team has visited Pakistan for around nine years. Neither has our team been invited to play series with other countries. Thus, there is a big gap because of which our players came under pressure,” said Qamar.

Pakistan were deprived of their right to participate in the Junior World Cup due to India’s conspiracy. That was a big setback to the efforts of PHF to raise a strong junior side from which players were to graduate into the senior team. Kamran Ashraf, who is the coach of the junior team, said these bold steps were being taken so that Pakistan could catch up with the rest of the hockey world.

“The junior team will also visit European countries in August and September. Talks are going on with different countries, including Netherlands, Germany, France, Ireland, and Belgium,” he added.

Qamar and Kamran said that the rigorous training, the experience of playing against the senior team of Argentina, and the participation in Australian domestic hockey would give much-needed boost to Pakistan. They said Pakistan would hopefully enter the 2020 Junior World Cup with a lot of strength and confidence.

Syed Intikhab Ali

(The News)