LAHORE: Olympian and former junior hockey coach Khwaja Junaid has appointed men’s hockey head coach by the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) for the upcoming Azlan Shah Cup Malaysia, as reported by the Daily Express last week.
The post has been vacant after as the entire team management, including coach Shahid Ali Khan, was sacked by the PHF. Junaid, who will also perform the duties of team manager, will be assisted by former internationals Ahmed Alam and Ajmal Khan, who have been named assistant coaches. The PHF also appointed Jan Mohammad as the coach for the coach for the national women’s team in an executive board meeting in Lahore. After weeks of speculation and discussions, in which several coaching options were discussed, including hiring a foreign coach, the federation finally decided to select a home-grown talent.
The PHF were in negotiations with various candidates including the German coach Paul Lissek but in the wake of security and safety concern in the country that proved an impossible task in time for next month’s Azlan Shah Cup.
“Hiring an international coach is still our priority but considering the fact that Pakistan hockey’s next assignment is very soon, the federation decided to appoint Junaid as the head coach on urgency basis,” said the PHF President Qasim Zia. “We were struggling to find a foreign coach in such a short period because of the security concern among the foreigners but apart from the Azlan Shah Cup, we still have six months before the Asian Games and until then the PHF will appoint a permanent team management.”
Junaid, former Pakistan midfielders, was previously engaged with the junior team as their head coach and interestingly one of only four qualified coaches in Pakistan after Kamran Ibrahim, Tahir Zaman and Asif Bajwa. “Once you are given a highlevel assignment, the task always is tough one,” Junaid told The Express Tribune.
“My main focus is to help players in finding the consistency which has been lacking in past. The other thing to make them mentally strong otherwise victory and defeat are the part of the game.” In the disastrous finish to the World Cup in New Delhi, coach Khan was sacked immediately while the entire team resigned only to reverse their decision following intervention from Zia.
“Although we came last in the World Cup, it doesn’t mean that our players are bad at hockey. They still were the best we have in the country,” added Junaid. “The only difference was that players did not follow the tactics which they have been using to win and the losses were down to inconsistency and not lack of talent and skills. This is the area I’m currently focusing on to lift the team.”
Junaid will have the players that took part in the World Cup at his disposal after the PHF President refused to accept their resignations following the World Cup debacle. While most of the players are taking part in the on-going National Hockey Championship in Karachi, Salman Akbar, the goal-keeper from the disastrous tour of New Delhi is currently playing club hockey in the Netherlands.