Jun 8, 2021

Blame for Pakistan hockey’s current condition lies solely with PHF

 Hockey situation in India and Pakistan was not hugely different 15-20 years ago. Both countries, relied heavily on individual skills of players, fitness levels were questionable and strategy to win the games was completely missing. The Asian style of hockey of individual skillful hockey was lagging far behind the European style that relied on fitness and team cohesion.  
Pakistan drops to 18th place
 in FIH ranking

India got the shock in 2008 after missing Beijing Olympics and mended their ways but Pakistan is yet to do a correction course even after missing back-to-back Olympics (Rio and Tokyo). With latest FIH rankings pushing Pakistan to 18th place behind the likes of Wales and Korea, it is quite a fall for a team that has won four World Cups and three Olympics gold medals. 

Times have changed, so has hockey in last 15-20 years. The methods that worked in late 1970s and 80s does not work anymore. No doubt the game of hockey still relies on the skills of the players, but fitness levels, team strategy and exposure to different opponents also play a significant role in a team's success.  

The blame of team’s struggle on the field solely lies with the Pakistan Hockey Federation who have not even covered the basics to give Pakistan hockey a fighting chance. The current struggle of Pakistan team can be divided into three main categories: 

Archaic coaching methods- Pakistan hockey’s biggest challenge right now is the coaching method and coaching team adopted by the PHF. With no foreign coach ready to commit, Pakistan Hockey Federation have employed the services of domestic coaches who currently cannot compete against top hockey nations. The coaching style is old fashioned, suited for early 1990s, fitness standards are virtually nonexistent and the scientific approach that the rest of the teams use to develop the game is not even among the cards. Lack of exposure to international tournaments has also not helped Pakistan hockey’s cause, and the performance in those tournaments too have been nothing short of poor. While the players play with complete passion and give their all but most of the time it falls to individual brilliance of players to bail the team out. Pakistan great Tahir Zaman has been working a lot for FIH and AHF, conducting courses for coaches and helping them prepare but PHF due to their lackadaisical approach have not even been able to approach him for coaching. 

Shortage of funds- Hockey is an expensive sport, it takes lot of money needs to be invested in the game- to conduct coaching camps, hire decent coaching staff, provide proper nutrition to players, and hold foreign tours to give proper exposure to the players. However, with lack of funds Pakistan Hockey Federation have not been able to provide the best available structure to the players. In the last few years, PHF have repeatedly asked the federal government for the funds but due to weak economic condition, the government too have not been able to help them. While the government might not be the one to help, what has PHF done on their end to secure necessary funding? Pakistan hockey had gone through similar issue in 2018 when Haier Pakistan had to step up and sponsor PHF for the World Cup when the government failed to help them. Why hasn’t PHF worked to find sponsorship on their own? South Africa crowdfunded their Olympics expedition, what steps have PHF taken to raise money on their own and not rely on handouts? 

Administration- The usual sports saying- skillful players cannot always be great administrators can also be extended to administrators especially in countries like India and Pakistan. We have heard lot of voices from fans in India and Pakistan saying that former players should be made administrators and should be allowed to run the sport. This however is a wrong notion. It is exceedingly rare that former players become good administrators and it is difficult in countries like India and Pakistan. Reason? Lack of proper education. Running a business is a challenging task and requires a business acumen and it is similar with running a federation that needs to cater to the needs to hundreds of people involved. The young players in India and Pakistan are made to focus more on the game rather than education hence it becomes difficult for them to carry out the tasks involved in running the federation. What Pakistan hockey needs is a proper administration led by a person involved in a business, who can run the game as a businessperson and raise funds for the team. 

Just before the pandemic, we saw Pakistan team displaying one of the most beautiful performances when they faced Netherlands for Olympics qualification. Though Pakistan ended up on the losing side, the way they played the game caught the attention of world hockey community. It is possible for Pakistan to make a comeback in the international arena, but it would require wholesome changes that PHF should be ready for. Unless the current lot of PHF are ready to leave the reign, Pakistan hockey will continue to struggle. 

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