Obituary of Pakistan Hockey

Hockey the national sports of Pakistan died at Ipoh, Malaysia recently. I want to elaborate that  after the formation of Pakistan, hockey was the sports that give several joyous moments to the nation.

After achieving bronze medal in at Helsinki, Pakistan’s hockey team went a step ahead to win silver medal at 1956 Melbourne Olympics  and finally at the 1960 Rome Olympics hockey helped Pakistan to win its first Olympic games gold. This was the first occasion since 1928 that India had to settle for silver medal in field hockey at the Olympics. Nasir Ahmed alias Nasir Bunda who use to play bare foot scored the winning goal for Pakistan. Pakistan Hockey saw many ups & downs but the worst scandal to hit Pakistan Hockey was at Munich Olympics in 1972. In the final of field hockey tournament, umpiring was biased in the favor of Germany and to show anger, Pakistan’s players put their medals in shoes. This gesture of Players offends International Hockey Federation who impose life ban on the team. This ban was lifted after the intervention of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Last hurrah came for Pakistan hockey during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics when team Pakistan beat Germany in extra time to win Gold medal.

Pakistan Hockey once enjoyed exemplarary relations with International Hockey Federation (FIH) and two major events that is world cup & champions trophy were initiated by FIH on Pakistan’s initiative. As a gesture of good will, Pakistan gifted the trophy of first world cup to FIH.

Pakistan won the inaugural world cup played in Spain in 1971. Pakistan won two consecutive World cup trophies in 1978 in Argentina & in 1982 in India. Pakistan last won hockey world cup in 1994.The tournament was played in Holland and Pakistan’s team won the title on penalty shoot out.

In its journey, the first real shock Pakistan hockey received was during the pool match of 1986 Asian Games when they were beaten by Malaysia  and were forced to play India in semi finals. Although Pakistan overcome India’s challenge but tough semi final seep out energy from players and this lack of energy was evident in the final against host South Korea who become Asian champions first time.

Immediately after Asian Games, hockey team travel to England to play world cup. This world cup proves to be a nightmare not only for Pakistan but also for India.

In a 12 team contest Pakistan finished 11th & India 12th. That was a real sad day for Asian Hockey which due to changes in rules and also because of change in playing surface from Natural grass to Astroturf lost the dominance they held on all other hockey nations since 1928.

After the disaster in London, Pakistan hockey team went in rebuilding phase and some signs of revival were witnessed and fans breathe a sigh of relief. At the 1990 Lahore world cup Pakistan finished runners up. This was a big turnaround for the team.

1994 was the last year when Pakistan won two major global titles that is the champions’ trophy & the world cup.

It’s been nearly two decades that Pakistan hockey failed to win a major international event and sadly the hopes of winning major titles nose dived further as hockey team failed to qualify for the next world cup.

I remember FIH change rules to accommodate Pakistan in 1986 champions trophy played in Holland.

There were the days when watching hockey match is a festive occasion. Whole family watches the match. Children were shouting, men were engrossed and ladies were offering prayers for team’s victory. Hockey players were household names and a source of inspiration for youngsters who want to play hockey. Inter school hockey tournaments were played regularly and they serve as a nursery to throw up youngsters to national level.

Real decline of Pakistan Hockey begin from 1995 onwards when due to introduction of dish antenna initially & cable TV later on live cricket coverage from all parts of the world become accessible. Rising cost of hockey gear and lack of grounds to play hockey also play role in hockey’s decline.

Money involved in cricket also prompt youngsters to try their luck in cricket. The daily stipend of budding cricketer at national cricket academy is very high as compare to what a hockey play receive.

Poor planning by Pakistan Hockey Federation in last decade particularly in last five years  caused insurmountable damage to Pakistan Hockey and the way things are shaping up, I am of the view that it will take a decade of hard work, planning & visionary thinking to revive hockey in Pakistan and put it back on the right path.

Pakistan immediately after its formation showed its capability in various games and won lot of laurels particularly in Hockey, Squash & Cricket. This is a sad state of affairs that a country that showed lot of promise in its earlier year is now fast sliding down and in the process loosing the respect it once garnered in sporting world.

I hope recently installed PML(N) government look into the matters of Pakistan Hockey and come up with a special strategy to bring the national game out of the debris it has fallen in.

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