After quite a while, hockey will take centre-stage later this month when some of the world’s top stars will arrive in the country to join in its bid to bring international action to Pakistan.
The preparation for World Hockey XI’s visit to Pakistan and the Hall of Fame ceremonies in Karachi and Lahore will be in full swings when this article appears, as only four days will be left before the arrival of the World XI.
It will be a great occasion in the history of Pakistan’s hockey as after around a decade something special is going to happen in the country.
Pakistan hockey has faced several issues during these years. Because of the poor law and order situation in the country, no foreign country was ready to visit Pakistan. Pakistan team has been performing poorly in international tournaments. Pakistan failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup and the Olympics 2016. Now it is ranked 13th in the world, although it has qualified for the World Cup 2018. It has yet to qualify for Olympic 2020.
The visit of big names of world hockey and former legends such as Floris Jan Bovelander and Paul Litjens of Holland and Christian Blunck of Germany and Juan Escarre of Spain is expected to lead to the revival of international hockey in Pakistan.
Tariq Huda, who is the chairman of the organising committee of the matches with World XI and Hall of Fame ceremonies, informed The News on Sunday’ that all preparation process is running smoothly and gradually speeding up.
Tariq said that PHF has ensured that both Karachi and Lahore matches are telecast live. The matches are scheduled on January 19 and 21. The Hall of Fame ceremonies in both cities will also be telecast.
Tariq further said the visitors would arrive in Karachi on January 18 and the same night Hall of Fame ceremony would be held at a local hotel. Sindh chief minister Syed Murad Ali Shah is expected to be the chief guest at the ceremony.
Pakistan legends who will get the awards are Islahuddin, Shahnaz Sheikh, Samiullah, Hasan Sardar, Shahbaz Ahmed and Akhtar Rasool.
He said that colourful activities would be held during the ceremonies and dignitaries of sports world would be invited.
Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has decided to field talented players from the juniors’ pool in matches against the visiting World XI. Pakistan is to play two matches against the World XI this month in Karachi and Lahore.
PHF high officials say that a team comprising Pakistan’s junior players would face the World XI in Karachi on January 19 and Lahore on 21. Informed sources in the PHF revealed that the decision to this effect was taken keeping in mind the future requirements.
PHF is focusing on strengthening the junior team and wants to provide the players opportunities to hone their skills. “It is the right time for them to play against the World XI. It will give them immense experience,” said an official.
The manager and coach of Pakistan’s junior hockey team Olympian Qamar Ibrahim and Kamran Ashraf termed the decision a bold step in Pakistan hockey and said that the juniors training camp is going on in Karachi. The camp training will be in full swing when the World XI arrives.
No major hockey-playing nation has sent its team to Pakistan for several years, nor have the Green-shirts been invited abroad. Through this tour of World XI, the doors of international hockey will be opened. “It will also give a lot of experience to the younger lot of our hockey,” said Qamar and Kamran.
Many players of the current senior team will retire after the World Cup 2018, so giving the juniors ample exposure at the moment is imperative, they added.
Playing against the World XI will help the juniors gain valuable experience. The junior team is to play Asia Cup in 2019 and World Cup in 2020. Before these big events, PHF wants to make it strong enough to compete against higher-ranked teams, said a high official in PHF.
The World XI’s visit is part of PHF’s efforts to revive international hockey in the country. The junior players are training in Karachi these days for the tour to Argentina next month.
Syed Intikhab Ali