Pakistan juniors determined to make up for seniors` failure: Coach
New Delhi: Pakistan junior hockey coach Anjum Saeed sees the ongoing Junior World Cup here as a major pointer to the future of the sport in his country, having failed for the first time to qualify for next year`s senior World Cup.
Pakistanis, he says, are seeing the failure of the senior team to make it to the World Cup as some sort of a crisis and they think the youngsters will overcome it with an impressive showing here.
The Pakistan junior team made a good start at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here with a 3-2 win over Egypt in their opening match.
Saeed, who was a member of the side that last won the senior World Cup in Sydney in 1994, told IANS that the juniors know that expectations are huge and they have to come up trumps here.
“The public expects a good performance from our junior team so that we could make the countrymen forget the loss the seniors suffered and restore their confidence in the sport. We have prepared well for the tournament and we will try our best,” said Saeed, who also played in the team that won the bronze in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Saeed said several factors had led to the dismal performance of the seniors at the Asia Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia, which was their last chance to qualify for the World Cup.
But Pakistan have bounced back after the loss. They won the Asian Champions Trophy in Japan and nine of the players from that team are here as part of the junior squad.
“Our boys made a lot of errors, particularly upfront, and the defence could not cope with the pressure. But I think the team is recovering. The boys are good and they will produce good results,” said the 45-year-old.
Saeed, however, admitted that playing in India will be a real challenge for the boys.
“It is natural for the boys to be under a bit of pressure as most of them are playing in India for the first time. They have just played in Europe but India brings with it a different kind of pressure. So will an Indian team be when it plays in Pakistan,” said Saeed.
Saeed said the team management is trying to keep the atmosphere light.
“But we are trying to make the boys relax. They are talking to the people here, whether at the hotel or the stadium. The atmosphere is congenial and the conversation light-hearted. This will put the players at ease,” added Saeed.
Besides hockey, the team also wants to visit Ajmer-e-Sharif, shrine of the famous Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti, in Ajmer.
“We have a lot of plans but as you know there are a lot of issues between the two nations. But if there is one place I want to visit, it is Ajmer-e-Sharif. It is a desire which has been in my heart for years but let’s see. Now that we are finally in India, I really want to take blessings from Khwaja Saheb,” said Saeed.