Having failed to make the cut, Pakistan will not be sending a team to the 2023 Hockey World Cup. Neglect over a long period of time can only be corrected by gradual but steady upgrades to the national sports of Pakistan.
News stories of PCB taking the decisions to make improvement in sports of cricket, women football team returning to Saudi Arabia, and last but not least, Pakistan hosted first-ever football summit are buzzing over the print as well as digital media. But, what about our national sport, remember – Hockey!
This year, India will host the opening games of the XXIII FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup. There will be 16 teams competing in this year’s mega-event, but shockingly, India’s arch-rivals and the most successful team in Men’s Hockey World Cup history with four trophies to their record, Pakistan, will not be participating.
Since India and Pakistan have played some historic matches against each other for more than seven decades, the Men in Green’s exclusion from the major tournament has come as a shock to many hockey aficionados on both sides of the border. Unfortunately, though, the two sides will not get the opportunity to write a new chapter in their historic rivalry.
Many critics say that hockey’s popularity declined because of cricket’s rising stars continue to draw attention from the business world and the government, both of which would be better served investing in cricket. Domestic competitions, which are vital for developing new talent, have also suffered. We need advancements on all fronts if things are ever going to change.
Shakeel Abbasi, former Pakistani hockey player once regretted choosing hockey over cricket by stating that “I made a big mistake by picking hockey over cricket. I was very good in both but I preferred hockey, our national sport hockey. Sometimes, I feel it was a big mistake.”
The wounds are very much in their raw state. Worse still, the diminishing financial resources of the sport have caused irreparable harm to the country’s national sport, which was already in a precarious position.
A cursory glance to the past shows that after 1947, Pakistan rapidly rose to prominence in the sport of field hockey. Due to the fact that we were so dominant in all of the major international tournaments, we were eventually given the title of national sport.
The media used to give more attention to renowned figures in the sport of hockey than they did to cricketers. When it came to describing Pakistani hockey back then, good simply wasn’t good enough. The nation of Pakistan used to be regarded as a dominant force in the sport of field hockey even before their name was ever spoken.
Even though it has the most historic history of any athletic event held in Pakistan, the sport of hockey is now doing very badly. It is unfortunate that a nation that once dominated the sport on a global stage, including winning three Olympic gold medals, four World Cups, three Asia Cups, an unprecedented eight gold medals at the Asian Games, two gold medals at the Asian Champions Trophy, and three gold medals at the FIH Champions Trophy, and remaining undefeated at the regional level for years, is now ranked only 18th in the world by the International Hockey Federation (FIH).
Since Pakistan’s victory in the World Cup in 1994, the green shirts have been responsible for the steep collapse of the sport across the nation. Pakistan did not take part in the World Cup in 2018, and they also did not compete in the Olympic Games in Rio (2016) and Tokyo (2000). Also, Pakistan’s hockey team missed Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020.
It’s evident that hockey has evolved significantly over the years, making it a different game from the one the Pakistanis dominated in their heyday. Pakistan fell behind while everyone else was adapting.
The sports’ experts claim that Pakistani hockey teams began a steady slide when artificial grass was first used in the sport. The new pitches completely changed the game and made Pakistan’s dribble-and-duck strategy obsolete. It also requires a higher level of physical preparation and discipline than Pakistan has traditionally shown.
The country of Pakistan, however, is not without its own problems. Because of budget cuts, the Pakistan Hockey Federation is no longer able to provide its players with the same level of access to international competition and training opportunities that it formerly did. This is due to ineffective management of available resources as well as a lack of available funding.
The fact is that it takes time to create a squad worthy of its history and traditions. Neglect over a long period of time may only be corrected by making gradual, cumulative improvements to the whole system over a long period of time. One thing Pakistan has never lacked is a youthful population full of skill and enthusiasm, eager to assist it soar to even greater heights; therefore it is wise to begin at the grassroots level.
Coming to the conclusion, the experts have declared Pakistani hockey to be dead. While optimistic voices considers hockey on a ventilator waiting to get attention from the responsible authorities. A few hockey fans still looking for hockey’s revival; let’s pray, hopes not die!