Hockey: lows after lows

Unavailability of facilities and absence of qualified coaches have been among perennial problems for national hockey

April 21, 2024


Ask a hundred people in Pakistan to name at least one national hockey player, and you will surely draw a blank. So appalling is the situation in the country regarding our national sport. Our performance in the game is exploring depths after depths. For a third time in a row, we failed to qualify for Olympic Games, scheduled in Paris this year. We were neither able to secure a spot in 2016 Rio Olympics and 2020 Tokyo Olympics, even though we have bagged the Olympic hockey gold thrice — in 1960 (Rome), 1968 (Mexico City) and 1984 (Los Angeles). As for World Cup, another notable tournament in the hockey world, the four-time world champion Pakistan were missing from the last year’s competition held in Indian cities of Bhubaneswar and Rourkela.

Lack of funds, a small pool of probables only featuring 30 to 35 players, disinterest on the part of sponsors, unavailability of facilities and absence of qualified coaches have been among the perennial problems the national hockey has been suffering from. But the latest crisis — and a strange one — to have hit the game of hockey in the country is the surfacing of two bodies, each claiming to be the true office-bearers of the Pakistan Hockey Federation. One of the bodies is headed by Tariq Hussain Bugti who had been appointed PHF president in December 2023 by caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul Haq Kakar. The other one has PPP’s Shahla Raza at the helm for around a month now.

With the controversy yet to settle, Pakistan may be banned from Azlan Shah Cup scheduled in the Malaysian city of Ipoh from May 4. The situation warrants urgent intervention from Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who is the Patron-in-Chief of Hockey. Our national sports cannot afford any further humiliation.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2024.

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