Need to go extra miles to put hockey back on track: Ex-Olympians

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ISLAMABAD, Aug 06 :A time when India has regained their lost Olympic glory by winning a bronze medal after a gap of 41 years at the Tokyo Games, Pakistan’s absence from the mega event for the second consecutive time upsets the former Olympians who believe that stern hard work was needed to get the national game back on track.

India men’s hockey team defeated Germany 5-4 in a thrilling bronze medal match at the Tokyo Olympics.

Meanwhile Pakistan have won three gold medals in the Olympic Games field hockey tournaments in Rome 1960, Mexico City 1968 and Los Angeles 1984. Pakistan have won two silver and two bronze medals in the Olympics as well. However, Pakistan could not qualify for Olympics since 2016.

Pakistan was also the most successful national field hockey team in the Hockey World Cup with four championships 1971, 1978, 1982 and 1994.

Former Olympian Abdul Waheed Khan, who was part of the national team which won a gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, said the game of hockey was played very much in the country when Pakistan came into being.

“The team that went to play the Olympics at Rome 1960 was a very tough team. We planned that this time we have to win the medal and went to the extravaganza with full passion and zeal,” he said while talking at a sports program at a private news channel.

He said the same type of passion was not seen now in Pakistan. “When we won the gold medal and Pakistan’s flag was raised at the 1960 Rome Games, people were asking which country it is as few of them knew about our country. After winning the medal people came to know about Pakistan,” he said.

Waheed said when Pakistan team came back home after winning the gold medal, the reception we got was tremendous. “The reception we got, I believe was only received by the founder of Pakistan Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah or the national team,” he said and added that Ayub Khan who was President at that time, came to visit us in Karachi and declared hockey as the national game.

Speaking about the downfall of the national game, he said at first hockey was played on grass but after that the rules changed and the game was played on astro-turf.

“Playing on grass was very difficult and the Europeans were thinking to discard hockey from the Games as we were very good in playing on grass. Then they brought in the astro-turf as it suited them and also changed the rules so much that hockey didn’t remained the same. The off-side rule was also changed,” he said.

But the thing is whatever rule comes in, we have to work hard and win. Pakistan stands at 18th position in the ranking and we feel ashamed as we were No 1. I appeal the players and officials to play and run the game honestly,” he said.

Former Olympian Tariq Aziz, who led the team to victory in 1968 Mexico Olympics by outplaying India in the final, said at that time hockey was very popular and played in schools, colleges and universities.

“We had a nursery of hockey and players used to come to clubs, regions and the national team from schools, colleges and universities. I also played from school, then college and university and moving on,” he said.

He said by looking at the current satiation, it seems difficult for the national game to recover its position. “We can regain our lost glory in the game but we have to do a lot of hard work. We should invest in the juniors (Under16, 17) more and I’m sure we will get good results,” he said.

Academies for juniors should be established at Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi and the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) must keep the best coaches in there to train the players,” he said.