KARACHI: Naeem Akbar netted a hattrick to give National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) a 5-2 win over Sui Southern Gas Corporation (SSGC) in the 57th National Hockey Championship on Wednesday.
Akbar scored the first goal of the match in the 11th minute from the field to give NBP the lead but Shakeel Abbasi equalised for SSGC in the 21st minute. Akbar answered Shakeel’s challenge by coming to NBP’s rescue again in the 27th minute but failed to contain SSGC for long as Shahzad Aslam closed the first half with a 33rd minute shot on target against NBP, putting 2-2 on the score board.
SSGC returned with a vengeance as Akbar completed his hat-trick in the first four minutes of the second half while Muhammad Taufeeq supported with a follow-up goal three minutes later. Khuram Shahzad sealed the win with the fifth goal.
WADPA overpower Port Qasim Authority
Pakistan’s drag-flick specialist Sohail Abbas scored two goals in the 18th and 44th minutes of the match for Wapda in a 4-2 win against Port Qasim Authority. Wapda dominated the match with Asif Michael netting the first goal for his side in the fifth minute and Waqas Sharif following up with his strike in the 13th. Port Qasim quickly equalised but Abbas took restored the lead with Manzoor Ahmed’s 57th minute goal coming too late.
HBL draw with PAF
In the first match, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) made a strong comeback to draw 2-2 with the formidable HBL. After a barren first half, HBL took a 2-0 lead but PAF, who have not won a single match from their six outings, saw the tides turn in their favour when HBL was twice penalised in the danger area and conceded penalty strokes, which were both successfully converted by Imran Hafeez.
Job security ‘hurting’ player performance
Members of the Pakistan squad have said that their performances are not good because there is no employment or health security for them.
“I have been playing hockey for 10 years now and there is no help for me,” Zeeshan Ashraf told The Express Tribune. “How can a player perform in the competitive matches when they know there is going to be no treatment for them from the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) or from their departments. The senior players will obviously take the sidelines instead of playing in the middle of the field because of these fears,” said Ashraf.
The same fears were echoed by 2004 Olympian Tariq Aziz.
Another forward, Akhtar Ali, made a risk-reward argument, saying that “the NBP has hired us on the contract of Rs35,000 per month. How can a player perform well in the tough matches when they know there is no guarantee that they will get proper treatment if they get injured.”
Akhtar, a national squad member and five-time Champions Trophy winner, has pleaded with the PHF to ensure that departments give permanent employment to the hockey players instead of just hiring them on yearly contracts.
According to Ali, junior players are getting permanent jobs in the NBP as assistant cashiers, earning Rs13,000 per month, which is motivating the younger players but too little for the international players and Olympians, especially in the economically-tough times. It leaves the players no choice, hence they take less attacking risks to avoid injuries, according to Ali.