The Pakistan hockey team and management need to pull up their socks and start to learn from their mistakes – a statement they themselves repeat after every failure – before it gets too late and the sport ceases to exist in the country.
The Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) management, including President Brigadier (retired) Khalid Sajjad Khokhar, has been constantly retelling after every game that the squad is young and will learn from its mistakes. But as soon as the Greenshirts don the national colours, they find themselves repeating the same mistakes all over again, so much so that it’s starting to appear as a pattern.
If this trend was a one-off scenario it could have been acceptable, however, the trend somehow manages to repeat itself every tournament and leaves a person wondering as to what exactly it is that goes wrong which makes a mockery out of the four-time world champions.
While player composure and training methods can certainly be improved upon, what does a person do when the PHF discards coaches and management like tissue paper?
Like all other government department, the federation has seen a massive re-shuffle in its management following the Olympic qualification debacle last year. A brand new administration took over with promises of bringing the sport out of its current slump.
While the objective maybe commendable, the possibility of achieving it leaves many question marks.
In trying to find a winning combination, the PHF has changed three coaches in a span of eight months. At first, Qamar Ibrahim was appointed as the head coach during the National Championships in Karachi which took place on December 27, 2015, but just a day later, he was demoted to the post of the coach, which inevitably resulted in his resignation.
His successor, Hanif Khan then took over the reins and started prepping the team. However, another coach, Mohammad Saqlain, was brought in to conduct a one-month training camp for the South Asian Games. But because Pakistan managed to bring home gold at the regional mega event, and that too after defeating India 1-0 in the final, the federation did not get much beef about the change in personnel.
The team returned to Pakistan extremely high on confidence. However, another change, this time Hanif leaving the camp and Mohammad Khawaja Junaid taking over shook the team to its core and the results — Pakistan finishing fifth out of seven — proved that the change in leadership led to the Malaysian debacle.
The constant change in management is nothing new for the PHF, who under the previous management led by Akhtar Rasool, changed coaches at their own whims.
Junaid kept saying to anyone who was willing to listen that Pakistan will learn from their mistakes, while the new PHF management claimed that they too will learn from the mistakes of the previous management but till now, the only thing they have learnt is how to make exactly the same mistakes.
These constant changes have left the players confused and have contributed heavily to their recent decline.
The PHF needs to be consistent; Pakistan hockey needs to be consistent. It is when we achieve consistency can we actually move forward. Otherwise, we will keep running in circles.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2016.