Dismissing calls from various quarters to offer his resignation and be held accountable for Pakistan’s dismal Olympics campaign, the team management defended the team’s performance with coach Khwaja Junaid insisting it did ‘reasonably well’.
Pakistan failed to qualify for the semi-finals after suffering two losses in their group — a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Great Britain before Australia recorded a thumping 7-0 victory to seal the Greenshirts’ fate. In a repeat of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the three-time gold medallists will play for seventh place today, a match they lost four years ago to eventually finish eighth.
Various Olympians including former greats, citing a lack of progress, have demanded resignations from the Pakistan Hockey Federation’s (PHF) top officials, team management and selection committee. While all the team officials were contracted until
the Olympics, Junaid expressed his interest to continue as coach.
“The PHF is the one that will need to decide my future,” Junaid told The Express Tribune while responding to the resignation calls. “While it was a setback that we failed to qualify for the semi-finals, I don’t see our campaign as a total failure. We played well against Spain who are ranked higher than us. We also did well against Argentina and South Africa who are also a force to be reckoned with.”
Junaid, who was a part of Pakistan’s 1992 Olympics team that won bronze, also took a shot at former players, saying they should review the performance of the team when they were in-charge.
“Many Olympians who are making noise right now had their chances. The team failed miserably under them and faced heavy defeats even against weaker opponents. At least we have maintained our position.”
Pakistan favourites for World Cup
Meanwhile, Junaid urged the fans not to lose heart on the missed opportunity of winning at the Olympics after two decades.
“We’re in a rebuilding phase while the other top teams are playing with experienced players. These players will not be able to play the 2014 World Cup and till then our youngsters will have ample experience and start as favourites.”
I didn’t have much time: Rasool
On the other hand, Pakistan team manager and head coach Akhtar Rasool distanced himself from the team’s performance, saying that he did not have ample time to get the best out of the players.
Rasool, who sounded a confident tone ahead of the event and added that the team’s preparations had been good, said, “I had little time. It was very difficult to form an outstanding team in a short period of four months.”
However, critics have rubbished the excuse saying the Olympian should not have accepted the responsibility if he had little time. Rasool replaced Dutch coach Michel Van den Heuvel who was sacked by the PHF for breaching his contract’s code of conduct.
Chief selector not seeking contract renewal
The PHF chief selector Hanif Khan will not seek a renewal to his contract that expires at the conclusion of the London Olympics.
“I am pondering over my future,” the Olympian told The Express Tribune. “It’s most likely that I will not seek a renewal as the chief selector. I wasn’t interested even before I took over and it was only at PHF’s insistence that I agreed.”
He added that he was ready to share the blame for Pakistan’s failure for reaching the semi-finals.
‘Major overhaul required’
However, Hanif said an overhaul was required, calling for a review of the team structure as well.
“All the seniors irrespective of their stature should be shown the door. There should be places for young players only who are the team’s future. The PHF must expel players like Sohail Abbas, Shakeel Abbasi, Waseem Ahmed and Rehan Butt.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2012.