KARACHI: Senior hockey players who have been axed from the squad set to take part in the Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia, have said that the Pakistan team cannot be competitive in big tournaments like the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games without them.
This comes after the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) announced three month long central contracts for the players. Senior players like Rehan Butt, Sohail Abbas, Shakeel Abbasi, Waseem Ahmad and former captain Zeeshan Ashraf have been awarded category “A”. “It will at least keep the players motivated,” Ashraf told The Express Tribune, “although a three month period is insufficient, but we can only hope that the contract duration would be extended.”
According to the former captain, the federation is trying to help the players - who have been omitted from the Azlan Shah squad - but this is no means resolves the issue of permanent employment of the senior players. Similarly, Pakistan forward Shakeel Abbasi, who has also been omitted, has insisted that the federation can not afford to lose the senior players before the Asian Games. “I know for sure that the federation also needs the senior players just as badly as we want to play for them,” said Abbasi.
“The federation can’t win a cup without the seniors, can they?” Abbasi was upset when the selectors had dropped him from the Azlan Shah squad for being unfit, especially after including him in the camp. Waseem Ahmad said that the central contract can only be a compensation for the players, but PHF secretary Asif Bajwa disagreed and said that the federation wanted the experienced lot to take rest before major tournaments and has thus awarded them honourary contracts to keep them on the federation’s payroll.