National game in a shambles


Politics, as it goes, is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedy. Our witch doctors, commonly known as politicians, have the knack of diagnosing a problem incorrectly and then applying wrong remedial methods. We cannot quote even a single sphere where politicians have not tried their fortunes and that is why even the sports department too stands badly politicized, which otherwise should have been a highly apolitical discipline. The situation becomes horrible and worrying when pranks are played to defame and disparage those games that used to be jewel of the crown such as hockey.

Being a hockey player, it is quite painful for me to see our national game touching the lowest ebb. This game used to be Pakistan’s identity worldwide for we ruled the game for years and years. Pakistan had clinched most of the big events including the mega event of world cup for more than one occasions. Then, it was Pakistan that introduced Champions Trophy, but then a time came Pakistan even could not qualify for the champions trophy. What a pity.

Pakistan hockey teams’ downfall started in late 90 and it reached its peak in 2006-2007 when we finished 6th in the Azalan Shah Hockey tournament, perhaps for the first time in the history of hockey. And shockingly, our team could not participate in the recently held Azlan Shah Hockey tournament simply because the hockey federation did not have sufficient funds to bear players boarding and lodging expenses. Ironically the government too did not bother to look into the matter rather it chose to keep a mum.

Apart from other ills, the biggest bane happens to be lobbying factor within the Federation. Then, political appointments on key positions such the President of Pakistan Hockey Federation and the Secretary General, have contributed immensely towards the decay of the game. Like other departments, the political party that forms the government, prefers to have his own man at the PHF president and secretary. The erstwhile PPP government brought in Qasim Zia and Asif Bajwa as President and Secretary while this government has accommodated Akhtar Rasul.  Deflowering of merit in Pakistan is not a unique thing however we can find it at its best when it comes to appointment of PCB or PHF chiefs.

There is no dearth of talent in Pakistan. Our players are perhaps the most skilled species as compared with other teams but their predicament stems from the fact that their talent is not utilized properly.  The frivolous regional hockey structure is yet another stumbling block in the way promotion of this game. Incompetent people are heading various regional organizations who prefer to have their own men selected for the national team. The regional hockey set up needs a complete overhaul and some strict accountability if someone wants hockey to again stand up on its own feet.

Interestingly, hockey always thrived whenever military people were appointed at top positions. There is absolutely no doubt that hockey was at its best during the tenure of Air Marshal ® Noor Khan, and Brig ® Manzoor Hussain Atif. During their period Pakistan won most of the titles including world cups. It was the time when we were simply unbeatable in this game. Even our neighbors Indians too were putting up some extra ordinary performance. But now both teams have surely been cut to size.

We need a reformist type of person taking care of this game. In our system military people are perhaps best suited to run sports federations. Or at least, our past tells us so. Prime Minster being the patron of the team, also ought to play his part for the revival of the team.

Summing up, many Pakistani hokey players are making up their minds to stage a dharna in front of the parliament house.   I think, there is no harm in trying luck!!