‘Tired’ players leave camp


April 21, 2010

KARACHI: The Pakistan Hockey Federation’s (PHF) new coach Khwaja Junaid is yet to receive any confirmation from the three hockey players wishing to skip the training camp and the Azlan Shah Cup that starts from May 5. “I’ve not had any official confirmation from anywhere yet,” Junaid told The Express Tribune. “I was told by the PHF Secretary Asif Bajwa that Zeeshan Ashraf, Waseem Ahmed and Akhtar Ali want a break from hockey.

The players haven’t asked me about their decision but if they’re not motivated right now, I wouldn’t force them to join the camp.” Pakistan captain Ashraf, half-back Ahmed and forward Ali had pulled out of the camp on April 18 and the tournament saying they needed rest after playing seven consecutive tournaments. According to Junaid, the players had phoned Bajwa about their decision but the federation still needs letters to be submitted in order to be exempt. The players, when contacted by this newspaper, confirmed that they will be submitting the requests in a couple of days.

According to them, the Azlan Shah Cup is just a preparatory tournament and taking a break from it would not harm the team. The players, in fact, believe that the much-needed rest can bring out the best in them during the Asian Games that take place later in the year. “I want to spend some time with my family now,” said Ashraf. “I have played seven tournaments and my body is very stiff from the games. It is time for me to tone my hockey routine down for a while. However, that isn’t to say that I won’t be coming back.

I will definitely be back after two months.” Pakistan forward Ali also echoed Ashraf’s views and said that he decided to skip the camp and the tournament even before the PHF had announced Junaid as the new coach. That, according to the players, was the reason why they spoke to Bajwa and not directly to the coach. The camp starts at the Hockey Club of Pakistan in Karachi today and will be the first time the new coach will be meeting the squad since his appointment.

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