Pakistan hockey coach blames poor infrastructure for debacle

Antwerp, July 4 (IANS) The Pakistan men’s hockey team’s chief coach Shahnaz Sheikh on Saturday said he would not solely accept the blame for his side’s poor performance at the Hockey World League (HWL) Semi-Final, blaming lack of facilities for their failure to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

World No.10 Pakistan lost 0-1 against world No.14 Ireland on Friday and will now face world No.18 France in the 7/8th place match.

“I have never witnessed such poor finishing. I requested time and again to the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) to take Olympic qualifiers seriously and provide players better facilities, but no heed was paid in this regard,” Shahnaz, was quoted as saying by nation.com.pk.

“All the other participating teams reached Belgium at least two weeks prior to the start of the event and played practice matches against each other. On the other hand, we managed to reach only two days prior to the start of the event and got just two practice matches in available time,” Shahnaz, considered one of the greatest strikers in the history of the sport, added.

Shahnaz, who scored 45 goals in 68 matches between 1969-78, said his wards failed to respond under pressure. “I emphasised mainly on penalty corner conversion and spent hours in training on improving penalty corners, defense and coordination among players, but the players completely failed to respond,” he said.

The coach also stated the need for the Pakistan government and corporate sectors to come forward and help develop hockey infrastructure in the country adding their glory days in the sport were a thing of the past.

“We have to come over from past glory days dreams. Yes, it is true we had won four World Cups and three Olympics, but that is past now. All the other teams and countries had given top priority and invested heavily on hockey and especially on players,” Shahnaz, who won two World Cups in 1971 and 1978 as a player, said.

“Without incentives, contracts and dailies, the players had done tremendously well, but for how long one could expect them to keep on showing desired results. The government and corporate sector must have to come forward and lend a helping hand to hockey,” Shahnaz, who won three back-to-back Asian Games gold medals starting in 1970, added.

“I had tried my level best with available resources. We performed superbly in 2014’s Asian Games and Champions Trophy, but no one bothers to say a few words of appreciation,” Shahnaz, who has a silver medal and a bronze medal from the 1972 and 1976 Olympics respectively, further said.

“The players were disheartened because the Prime Minister was time and again requested to spare time and meet with players so that they might get motivation, but all our requests fell on deaf ears.

Pakistan also failed to make it to the World Cup in 2014 for the first time and now they would miss the Olympics. Shahnaz felt pathetic playing conditions led to some key players getting injured.

“It is true that for the very first time after missing world cup last year, Pakistan hockey team would miss Olympics after participating in each Olympic since 1948. But it is also true we had to face lot of difficulties, pathetic condition of Naseer Bunda hockey stadium in Islamabad resulted in three or four main players getting injured,” he said.

When asked about his future as head coach and whether he would quit, Shahnaz said: “One or two bad results don’t mean all the good work done by me and my supporting staff is over. I would remain in hockey but am fully prepared to relinquish the post. I demand our Prime Minister to order complete post mortem and culprits must be taken to task.

“Without providing facilities and lifting the living standard of the players, there is no hope Pakistan hockey will come up from ashes. Pakistan hockey needs complete revamp and hefty finances. We were left high and dry.

“I requested the federation again and again to arrange international exposure tours for the team. But no serious efforts were made.

“I will announce my future after the last game of the event, but I will not make any decision in haste,” concluded Shahnaz.

 

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