KARACHI: Pakistan hockey team captain Muhammad Imran feels the country can win a gold medal at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea scheduled to take place from September 19 to October 4.
Pakistan has been clubbed alongside India, China, Sri Lanka and Oman in the 10-nation men’s hockey competition.
“Being the defending champions, we are one of the favourites for the Games,” Imran told The Express Tribune.
“However, we cannot show signs of complacency against any team as they have been playing internationally and are in rhythm with the new 15-minute format.”
Talking about their match with India he said, “The game against them has always been a do-or-die situation but for us it will be like any other game, without the additional pressure.”
Pakistan’s tally at the Games includes eight gold, two silver and four bronze medals out of the 14 field hockey tournaments featured in the mega event, with the exception of the 2002 edition, where the nation came fourth.
Expressing his belief in the team and the training schedule, Imran was certain that they have the potential to bag the gold this year.
“Our training has been very good and I am confident that we will achieve our target,” he said. “The confidence level of the players is high and we are aware of the Games’ importance because only a gold can take us to the Olympics.”
The team selected for the tournament comprises a lot of young players who have immense talent. However, the captain believes they lack experience and practice due to cancelled events, which would be the biggest hurdle in the team’s campaign.
The players are to report to camp commandant Shahnaz Sheikh on Monday for the final phase at the Naseer Bunda Hockey Stadium in Islamabad; however, they are facing problems due to the ongoing political situation in the capital.
Meanwhile, Sheikh stated that he had planned a single league starting from September 4 to September 8 to give the team some much needed practice. But due to the political situation they have asked the management to fly-off to Incheon early on September 10 so that they can play four to five matches there.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2014.
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