Pakistan hockey community excited about India clash in Champions Trophy
Pakistan's hockey community is anticipating an exciting semi-final against arch-rivals India in the Champions Trophy but they believe a win is an absolute necessity for the future survival of the cash-strapped sport in the country.
Karachi: Pakistan's hockey community is anticipating an exciting semi-final against arch-rivals India in the Champions Trophy but they believe a win is an absolute necessity for the future survival of the cash-strapped sport in the country.
"The Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) was lucky this time that they got much required financial help from private businessmen to send the team to the Champions Trophy. But they must repay this debt with a win," former Olympian and captain, Islahuddin Siddiqui said.
Without any support from the government, the PHF had turned to the private sector for help to raise funds to send the team to India for the prestigious tournament.
To their good fortune a cricket loving entrepreneur Nadeem Omar and real estate magnate, Riaz Malik stepped to provide the much-needed financial support to the PHF which made it possible for the team to travel to India.
"The team must go all out to win this semi-final against India. It will send out the right message to the private sector and encourage others to also contribute to the sport," Siddiqui said.
Former Olympian, Hasan Sardar said though he was completely perplexed by the format of the ongoing Champions Trophy but it was good to see the Pakistan team winning against Netherlands in the quarter-finals.
The four semi-finalists of the Champions Trophy, Pakistan, India, Australia and Germany -- all finished in the bottom four in the eight team league matches. But since all teams qualified for the quarter finals, Pakistan got a fresh lease of life when they surprised the Dutch in the last eight stage.
"Matches against India are always very tense but Saturday's encounter is all the more significant for us because of the after effects the result will have on the future of Pakistan hockey," Sardar said.
Ironically, both Pakistan and India once dominant forces in world hockey are now ranked 11th and 9th and also clashed in the final of the Asian Games in October where the Indians prevailed in a penalty shootout.
Former Olympian and national team coach, Hanif Khan said he was looking forward to the match simply to see both teams play in true Asian style.
"Although the scope for individual brilliance and Asian style dribbling and passes is now limited due to rule changes but still one can expect a thrilling game," he said.
Hanif pointed out that India held the edge over Pakistan because in recent years whenever the two had met on Indian soil the Indians had prevailed more in pressure situations.
He said Pakistan captain, Muhammad Imran, an experienced fullback, will have a major role to play in marshaling his troops.
Another former coach, Samiullah said the team that held its nerves would win the semi-final.
"India has shown better progress in hockey in recent times than us and they are investing a lot of money into the sport. They also have a foreign coach so if Pakistan can beat them it will be a big boost for our image," he said.