Pakistan hockey captain Sohail Abbas said the country should not keep ‘high hopes’ as the team returned at the Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore after finishing seventh in the 2012 London Olympics.
Pakistan suffered two crushing losses – to Great Britain 4-1 and Australia 7-0 – that ended their chances of making to the semi-finals of the hockey event, the only realistic chance of the country bagging a medal at the Olympics. Pakistan, however, did manage a draw against Spain and beat South Africa and Argentina in the group phase.
Reduced to playing a classification match, the Greenshirts then beat Korea to finish seventh – one spot better than their final place at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Abbas, the world’s leading goal-scorer, said the expectations should have been ‘reality-based’.
“The world saw how we performed at the Olympics,” said Abbas. “The nation should not keep high hopes. Success or defeat lies in the hands of God.
“Australia is the number one hockey team. We played competitive hockey and fought back very well and I’m satisfied with myself and my team’s performance.”
While there were calls to completely overhaul the hockey team, which has failed to produce positive results, the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) ruled out major changes and added that a gradual transition would take place.
Abbas, who has been termed an incorrect choice as leader, added that he had not made up his mind on the 2014 World Cup. “I have not thought about my availability as yet.”
Meanwhile, the team’s head coach, Akhtar Rasool, was pleased with the Greenshirts’ performance, barring the encounter against the world champions.
“It has been four months since I took charge of the hockey team,” said Rasool, who took over after Dutch Michel van Heuvel was shown the door by the PHF. “During this time, I have developed the squad. I believe that the way the team performed in the Olympics, except for the one match against Australia, has been commendable.”
Rasool said that the team worked really hard for the event. “As far as the federation is concerned, it did everything to facilitate and look after the team. The players awakened the nation’s hopes in hockey and our next target is the 2014 World Cup.”
Pakistan athletes took part in shooting, 100m sprint, 800m events, besides swimming and hockey in the 2012 Olympics. The country last bagged a medal at the 1994 Games.
“It’s been four months since I took charge. During my time I’ve developed the squad. The way the team performed in the Olympics, except for the game against Australia, has been commendable.”
“Australia is the number one hockey team. We played competitive hockey and fought back very well and I’m satisfied with my and my team’s performance. Success or defeat lies in the hands of God.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2012.