The current Pakistan Hockey Federation’s (PHF) already dented portfolio was jolted by another notable controversy when key player Shakeel Abbasi was expelled from the ongoing training camp.
Team manager Akhtar Rasool ordered the players to abstain from fasting till the camp concluded, as he needed them to give their 100% during the crucial training session ahead of the Asia Cup. The tournament is the Greenshirts’ last chance to qualify for next year’s World Cup.
However, reports emerged that Rasool was furious with Abbasi for going against his orders, and those present at the scene revealed that the manager had warned off the player to either take his words seriously or stay back home.
“I’m a religious person and I understand the importance of fasting in Ramazan, but at the moment, Pakistan’s prestige is at stake,” Rasool told The Express Tribune.
“The Asia Cup is very important for us and we want everybody to give their 100% during the camp.
“It’s obvious that when you’re fasting it becomes impossible to give your best. All the players had agreed that they would offer fasts after Ramazan. Yet, Abbasi broke his word which is why I was left with no option but to ask him to leave.”
Rasool further stated that Abbasi would be recalled for training and his misdemeanour would be overlooked if he changed his stance.
However, a PHF official close to the top brass said the problem would be solved good-naturedly to avoid issues between either party.
“PHF Secretary Asif Bajwa is aware of the incident and he is keen to find an amicable solution,” said the PHF official.
Wasim slams Abbasi’s ouster
Former Olympian Wasim Feroze, who has one of the highest appearances for Pakistan, rebuked the team manager’s orders, stating that former players had performed and triumphed in international matches even while fasting.
According to Feroze, during international tournaments, there had been instances when four to five players would be fasting, but it had not affected their performances.
“It’s ridiculous to expel one of your best players from camp because he is fasting,” said Feroze. “Abbasi has worn the green kit for so many years and served his country well — he deserves to be treated better.”
PHF recalls goalie Salman Akbar
The federation has also decided to recall goal-keeper Salman Akbar for the training camp after the player made known his availability. However, his selection for the Asia Cup would depend on his fitness and form.
“It’s renewed hope for me that the PHF has called me for the camp after I showed my availability,” stated Salman. “I will try to give my best during training so that I can prove my fitness and form to get selected for the Asia Cup.
“I feel I can still represent Pakistan for another two years after which I will call on retirement in order to start coaching. I’ve already started coaching the goal-keeper of my club back in the Netherlands.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2013.
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