Karachi: The captain of the Pakistan hockey team Mohammad Imran on Tuesday lashed out at the government for ignoring the national sport and said no one should expect big performances from players on a diet of "chana daal and khajoor".
Talking to the media in Lahore after the national team returned from Brussels today morning, Imran minced no words in stating that the players now had no motivation to do well.
"Hum Rooh Afza aur Khajooro par, naan channay khaa kar world champions nahi ban saktay," Imran said a clear reference to the problems faced by players since last few years due to the financial crisis in the Pakistan Hockey Federation.
"Why didn't the Prime Minister or government take notice of our problems or the state of hockey affairs when they should have," he said. The Pakistan team returned home on Tuesday from Brussels in a low key fashion with head coach and manager, Shahnaz Sheikh also giving a number of reasons for the team's failure to qualify for the summer Olympics and finish eight in the 10 team World Hockey League.
"The reaction of everyone to this dismal performance is understandable and I am not offering any excuses but the truth is we have faced financial constraints, lack of facilities and intense competition and we failed to qualify for the Olympics," he said.
Pakistan's hockey team failed to qualify for the Summer Olympics for the first time in its history and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had already ordered an inquiry into the debacle and also a special audit into the PHF accounts.
Imran said he would gladly appear before the inquiry committee formed by the government on Thursday morning in Islamabad with Shahnaz Sheikh.
"We want someone to listen to the problems faced by the players. We have lost some very good players in recent times because there is no financial motivation for them in hockey. These players were forced to go and play in foreign leagues to earn good money," he said. The inquiry committee will hold its first meeting on Thursday. Imran noted that since last year the players had been pleading with authorities to listen to them and their problems but they were ignored.
"We are as hurt and disappointed at what happened in Brussels but if hockey is to survive in Pakistan than players should be able to make a career in hockey and play with a peace of mind and not worry about daily allowances, contract payments or meals," he said.