Tahir Zaman is set to take over as national hockey coach as the training camp for next month’s Asia Cup begins today at the National Hockey Stadium in Lahore.
An International Hockey Federation (FIH) affiliated coach, Zaman has replaced Hanif Khan, who was axed following the team’s failure at the Hockey World League (HWL). The Greenshirts finished seventh in the eight-nation tournament, missing out on a top-three finish that would have guaranteed them a place at next year’s World Cup in the Netherlands.
Following the failure, the Asia Cup, scheduled to start on August 24 in Ipoh, Malaysia, has become a must win event for the four-time champions.
Zaman said he had devised a comprehensive plan to prepare players in the best possible manner for the crucial tournament.
“We’ll work to raise players’ fitness and skills,” the coach told The Express Tribune. “I don’t have a magic wand but I will give it my best and utilise all my expertise to bring about the required improvement.
“The main focus on the field during the training camp will be on penalty-corners, defence and finishing.”
Despite heavy rain in Lahore, the coach said there was going to be no change in the schedule and expected the presence of all the 25 players at the camp on the opening day today.
The training camp will be held in three sessions daily – physical training (morning), power training (afternoon) and hockey drills (evening) – with a day off after three days, added the coach.
Players hopeful of success under Zaman
Majority of the current team members backed the decision to promote Zaman as head coach, terming it a positive step for the team’s chances at the Asia Cup.
“Tahir is among the best coaches Pakistan has,” said Waseem Ahmed, the senior most player in the team.
“Hanif deserves a lot of praise for his services as he was a great player. But the game has evolved and it’s not the same as it was decades ago.
“We needed a modern coach and in this sense, Tahir was the best choice because he is a qualified FIH coach.
“I hope the team will show significant improvement in the Asia Cup.”
However, another senior player requesting anonymity said Zaman was a good choice, but the timing of the change was not ideal.
“We are heading for an important tournament in which we have no choice but to win. Now a coach will come with his own plans and that may hurt consistency which can have a negative impact.
“However, I feel Tahir has the ability to raise our level and mentor the side to a title-winning triumph in the Asia Cup”.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2013.
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