ISLAMABAD - Pakistan handball team captain Tahir Ali has termed the government’s treatment with gold-medal winning handball team as highly unprofessional but vowed to win medal in the 5th Asian Beach Handball Championship 2016 in Vietnam.

Tahir Ali, along with national coach Naseer Ahmed, highly experienced players M Uzair Atif and M Shahid Parvaiz, expressed these views while talking to The Nation on Thursday prior to their departure for the Beach Games.

Tahir said: “I am the national team skipper since 2010 and represented the country in all five editions of the Asian Beach Handball Championships held so far. We won gold medal in 1st Asian Beach Handball Championship in Bali, Indonesia, then won silver medal in 2nd edition held in Muscat, Oman, as we lost the final against Kuwait. We also managed to win two bronze medals in the last two editions, but not only me but all the other team members are highly disappointed that neither the government nor the IPC minister or even Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) announce any cash incentives for the players.”

He said it was never easy to perform at such a high level, keeping in mind, they didn’t have any proper practice place. “We can only train at either sea view or Manora Island. Manora is far better, while sea view is not even ordinary. The players expect that their performances will not only be recognised like athletes but they will also get due recognition, but to their utter disappointment, they are still waiting to get cash awards.”

He said they were leaving today (Friday) as only a day left before the start of the championship. “We have to play the first match against arch-rivals India. The PSB should have ensured our departure at least one week earlier, so that we could have practised and adjusted to the conditions. Now it will be a stern test for all the players. We arrived the national camp in mid July and since then we had been training hard under head coach Naseer Ahmed, who is former national skipper and was working very hard with us. We didn’t even take holidays on Eid and the camp was on.”

He said the PSB provided excellent facilities to the team players and this gesture was really appreciable. “We have blend of experience and youth. Four players, including me, have played in all the editions and we are quite optimistic about finishing on the podium. We have a very strong and competitive pool, which has three former champions including Pakistan, Bahrain, Qatar, India and Thailand, but we are fully focused on the task ahead.” Sharing his views, experienced left winger M Uzair Atif termed their chances of winning gold as very bright. “Yes, we are in a very powerful pool and we have to dig deep, but, keeping in mind preparations and hard training, we expect favourable results.”

Replying to a query, Uzair said: “We just lack in facilities and international exposure, and as far as coaching is concerned, we are almost at par with Asian-level teams, as our coaches are far superior, but we don’t have the facilities which international teams and players enjoy and they also have all-out backing of their federations and governments.

“I strongly suggest the PSB to arrange international training of handball team and if it is not possible in Brazil, then at least it should be arranged in Qatar or Thailand, as it will help Pakistan handball team a great deal in winning laurels at any given competition. Wapda and Army have provided jobs to handball players, but others must step forward in this regard. The government should also announce incentives for handball players if they want better performances from the players at international level,” he added.

Sharing his views, Shahid Parvaiz said: “We are landing in Vietnam quite late and it can hurt our chances, but even then, we still believe we can deliver and earn laurels. Although we are getting good meal and accommodation in the PSB, yet we have also other requirements. We can’t even think about carrying on our day-to-day affairs in such a meager amount of Rs 100 daily, which is a joke with the players.”

Pakistan handball team head coach Naseer Ahmed hoped that the green shirts would carve out victory against arch-rivals India in the first match. “The federation is working very hard and ensuring international participation and camps in their limited resources. Now the PSB must lend a helping hand and provide more funds to the federation so that they may arrange training abroad, which will prove more than handy for the national team .”