The dire straits of sports in Pakistan is evident from the fact that the Men in Green failed to qualify for the FIH Hockey World Cup 2023 that is currently underway in India. This came about after Pakistan crashed out of the Asia Cup on goal difference, as India trashed Indonesia to qualify for the Super Four stage back in May 2022. Now, the Pakistani team languishes at 17th place on the world rankings. Once considered a front-liner with four world titles and countless accolades to its name, Pakistan hockey team now finds itself struggling to find its feet.
The shocking decline — from dominating the sport to failing to qualify for major tournaments, including back-to-back Olympic Games — should ring alarm bells but those at the helm have failed to acknowledge or take relevant action regarding the matter. The fact remains that lack of funding, corruption and nepotism have completely destroyed the hockey structure at the national level. Salaries and disbursements are not enough for players to make a proper living, especially in times of high inflation and economic turmoil. Many have even reported that they have had to spend their own money for travel arrangement in order to play in international tournaments. The situation is so dire that experts are claiming that Pakistan hockey is “dead”. Let us also not forget that this enormous decline is also owing to the fact that PHF failed to adapt to modern hockey. Labeled ‘Kings of Grass’, Pakistan hockey players underwent a decline in their performance with the introduction of artificial turfs. But, unlike in India, our officials did not have enough foresight to adapt to it.
It’s heartbreaking to see Pakistan hockey in its current state. In order to initiate change, corruption and nepotism must be rooted out while serving officials must be replaced with sincere professionals who can build Pakistan hockey from the ground up. More than anything, serious investment and attention is needed.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2023.
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