Back-to-back defeats in the warm-up games have put the Pakistan hockey team on the back-foot even before the event proper has started — a 2-1 loss at the hands of Belgium and a 5-1 thrashing by the Netherlands.
The confidence seems to be deserting them and head coach Akhtar Rasool is also ruing the absence of ‘star players’ from the squad despite the return of the seniors for the mega event.
“What I have observed in the last three months is that we don’t have star players,” Rasool, the Olympics gold-medallist who replaced Dutchman Michel Van Dan Heuvel a few months ago, told The Express Tribune from London.
“There should at least be three to four super stars because having those sort of players is very important in order to get good results in major competitions. We don’t have quick and skilled players like Shahbaz Ahmed and Hasan Sardar anymore and a desirable result is very hard to achieve without such top quality players.”
On-field embarrassment continues with 5-1 rout
Rasool’s comment came following the embarrassing 5-1 loss at the hands of the Dutch in the second and last warm-up match.
The Greenshirts take on Spain on Monday in their Olympics opener but against the Netherlands, they missed several chances as execution and conversion skills continued to desert them. Pakistan also missed four penalty-corners with Mohammad Rashid providing the only consolation.
“The reason is obvious: we failed to finish things off. The Netherlands availed their chances very well.”
However, Rasool said the team will try its best to do well in the main event.
Coach downplays rift
Meanwhile, the former captain, while downplaying the reported tiff with the Pakistan Hockey Federation Secretary Asif Bajwa, said that a misunderstanding over his designation and role triggered the rumours.
The reports claimed that Rasool quit his position as head coach after a rift with Bajwa who was said to be interfering in team matters.
“What happened was that only one designation was supposed to be written in the organisers’ list and I went for the manager’s option.
“That was it. There is no infighting in the camp and the reports are not true.”
Irfan struck on the ankle
Pakistan received an injury blow in the match against the Netherlands when Mohammad Irfan was struck on the ankle.
“Irfan is in a lot of pain,” said Rasool. “We have conducted an MRI and will decide about finalising our 16-player squad after that.” Earlier, goal-keeper Imran Butt and former captain Mohammad Imran were tipped to be dropped from the squad.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2012.