Pakistan was once power hub of sports but its fortunes have gone into the worst possible decline
Can one imagine a modern-day Cricket World Cup sans Australia, South Africa or India? It’s almost impossible, in fact bizarre. The same way, once considering Hockey World Cup without Pakistan was almost impossible. Yet, this is exactly what happened in 2014 and the situation is uncertain in the upcoming World Cup 2018. What’s more, Pakistan hockey team even failed to qualify for the Summer Olympics 2016.
Decline of Pakistan hockey is not quite sudden or dramatic rather it’s quite slow, steady and painful. Journey of its downfall actually started in 1986 World Cup when Pakistan got 11th position in 12-teams event. In Summer Olympics 1988 Pakistan hardly managed to get 5th position.
Although it managed to bounce back a bit in the 1990s, thanks to individual performances but again it went on declining further to world number 14, lower than Belgium, Ireland, Canada, Korea, Malaysia, Spain, New Zealand, England, India, Netherlands, Germany, Australia and Argentina.
Here question arises, what are the causes of shameful downfall of national game of Pakistan? For a start, the game lacks proper attention of the government and public at large as well as it lacks physical infrastructure. The Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) is run by a majority of unprofessional individuals. Decision-makers are not equipped with the technical know-how of the modern game. Selection is based on favoritism. Pakistan hockey always lacks funds and available limited money is often misused and misappropriated at high and low levels.
Officials of Pakistani hockey lack all the necessary trainings which is mandatory to route the available talent in the right direction. Hockey is no longer a part-time game rather it requires unconditional commitment both inside and outside the ground. It requires years of planning and use of complicated equipment to train the players. Our hockey federation cannot comprehend the requirements of the modern-day game.
The other big problem with development of hockey in Pakistan is the lack of good quality Astroturf pitches. Access to such grounds is not possible for local level players. Most of the players use synthetic surfaces once their technique has matured.
The small city of Gojra has contributed the biggest number of players to our national team, but it is sad to note that the city has only one such field and that is not sufficient to provide room for all the budding players in the city.
Hockey has also been fading from our TV screens and our media has failed to actively promote healthy sports activities including our national game.
Above all these issues, the major reason behind the shameful decline of hockey is its vanishing from our educational institutions. Once, our schools and colleges were the nurseries of national game. But unfortunately, politics has dominated all the positive activities including games. Our governments are directionless in promotion of games in educational institutions especially hockey. Even local hockey clubs are disappearing day by day. If the present scenario continues, the future of hockey in Pakistan continues to be bleak.
Concrete efforts and serious policy are required to bring back golden era of field hockey in Pakistan.
The governments should declare sports emergency and take necessary steps to promote national game. There should be compulsion for educational institutions to have at least one team for each games category especially the national game. Incentives and jobs should be offered to local and national players. Pakistan soil is still fertile for the cultivation of world class hockey players. This soil only wants proper care, love and affection.
(The writer is a PhD Mass Communication Scholar and he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)