As the false hopes brought to life by the thrilling 5-4 comeback win over South Africa were brutally put back to sleep by the Australians, Pakistan hockey confirmed its status as a mere participant in the London Olympics. While the team carried medal hopes for the country — hope, rather than credible aims — Pakistan’s national sport, once again, failed to add to its tally of eight Olympics medals, the last one being the bronze won in 1992. Pakistan’s lead-up to the Games reeked disaster — sacking of the Dutch coach less than five months before the Olympics, seniors punished for exercising their rights of earning an honest living, alarm bells falling on deaf ears after an embarrassing Azlan Shah Cup sojourn, as well as defeats in the pre-London warm-ups.
The Asian Games triumph in 2010 gave the Pakistan Hockey Federation breathing space, sweeping the glaring decline in rank and performance into temporary oblivion. But the show in London, where the team was found lacking in every department, brought reality back into play. The defence was in tatters, the goalkeeper had a tournament to forget, there was no link-up between the midfield and the forwards and, the biggest concern shown by critics, the finishing was non-existent.
The golden days are buried but Pakistan hockey, eighth in Beijing 2008, is not even on a road to recovery. The seniors were brought back into the side to add to the hopes but the results were not achieved. The journey that started with a commendable 1-1 draw against Spain has ended in a disaster. The Greenshirts will take on South Korea today for seventh place, aptly depicting the complete lack of progress in the last four years. It was not just the colour of the turf but the Olympics blues that hit us hard. The gulf in class was loud enough for the officials to take notice. Unless priorities are changed and emphasis is put solely on the improvement of the sport, Rio 2016 has the makings of another disaster.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2012.