So the lowest of lows is upon us. Pakistan, the three-time Olympic and four-time world champions, now do not feature in the two most prestigious events in hockey. The steady decline that started almost immediately after the 1994 World Cup win, touched its lowest point at Antwerp, where the Greenshirts failed to reach the top four at the World Hockey League — which would have ensured participation in the 2016 Rio Olympics — ending a dismal eight out of 10 teams. Pakistan had, earlier, also failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
The Pakistan Hockey Federation’s (PHF) apathy, coupled with the crippling financial state of the sport, has, perhaps, finally struck a killer blow to the country’s national game. The PML-N government that had hardly budged when the PHF repeatedly pleaded for financial support to ensure participation at the Antwerp event is now fully aroused, although quite belatedly. A five-man committee has been formed to probe the disaster and an audit of the PHF is also going to be conducted. Going by past trends, one can predict that a post-mortem of the performance will be carried out, resulting in sweeping changes and a few retired players might be asked to take over. We will then get to hear a few more hollow promises for the 2020 Olympics.
What is actually required are revolutionary steps. The financial health of the sport needs to be seriously assessed and long-term policies instituted, aimed at making hockey financially independent of government largesse. The PHF shouldn’t need to run from pillar to post to gather funds for important tasks. National players shouldn’t be earning a measly $20 in daily allowance and should be able to earn a decent living from the sport. With such paucity of resources and the general lack of interest of the corporate sector in hockey, the future looks bleak unless a complete revamp of the sport’s structure is carried out. It is a pity that the recent past does not inspire a lot of confidence in this regard.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2015.
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