ISLAMABAD - Pakistan hockey team head coach and former Olympian Shahnaz Sheikh has expressed satisfaction over players’ fitness levels and hoped they will defend the Asian Games title.
Talking to The Nation, Shahnaz said: “The second phase of the training camp starts here at Naseer Bunda Hockey Stadium and 36 boys reported in the camp. We have started training in two sessions and we are practicing while observing fast. I have introduced a schedule in which players are very comfortable and can play while fasting. The second phase will continue till July 18, then there will be a break till August 2 and then players will report on August 3 for the third phase of the training camp which will also be held here at Islamabad instead of Sialkot.”
“The trials for team selection will be held on August 13 and 14. I have suggested the PHF to provide the team foreign tours. According to my suggestion, the team will either play matches with Asian counterparts like Korea, Malaysia and India or embark on European tour to play against top European teams. If the teams will not be available then we will prefer to play against top European clubs, which will benefit a great deal to our players. Pakistan hockey team has not played any international match for the last nine months or so, while on the other hand, our rivals India, Malaysia and Korea have played in World Cup and now they are also getting much-needed practice from the Commonwealth Games,” he added.
“We have invited 10 players for the second phase out of which seven players are new inductions. We have also invited senior most player Waqas Sharif in the camp to give players much-needed exposure against the best in the lot. Fresh inductees are Aleem Bilal (full back), Zohaib Ashraf (half back), Kashif Ali (center forward), Hafiz Rizwan (forward), Asad Bashir (forward), Ishaq Bhatti (forward), while Abdul Haseem Khan also joined camp after returning from Germany. We have three injuries as well, Rizwan Senior is still nursing his ankle injury. He has recovered almost 80 percent and likely to join camp in next 3 to 4 days. M Fareed is also struggling with hamstring injury, while M Tauseeq is having pain in chest. We have sent him to Lahore on Monday to visit specialist/surgeon for complete check up, all the other players are completely fit. We have taken their cooper tests and their fitness levels are in perfect shape,” Shahnaz stated.
“In the late night session, we focus on physical training, while in the evening session, our main focus is on technical and set pieces and how to defend/strike short corners. During the video analysis, I have noticed one major flaw in the techniques of the forward line, their build up speed while attacking is relatively slow. I am concentrating hard on removing that flaw and help players in speeding up the attacking options,” he added.
“When I took over, I don’t want to put team in unwanted pressure. I wanted to first examine the strength and weaknesses of the players and now after eight weeks of training, I feel my boys are ready for the challenge of playing competitive hockey. Although the time is very short before the Asian Games, but with the positive frame of mind, comprehensive planning, boys abilities and hunger to excel, I am quite confident they will not let down the country and try to defend their title, Shahnaz concluded.
It is pertinent to mention here that despite the lapse of almost three months, coaching staff, selection committees both senior junior has yet to receive any contract from the federation despite several promises being made to them. Coaches have yet to get a single penny, only dailies have been provided to the players and the team management. Senior players have yet to get central contracts from the federation thinking about juniors is a day dreaming. The PHF is blaming poor funds situation for fulfilling promises, while on the other hand, PHF president and secretary are busy in foreign tours. If they have money for foreign tours, they must also pay some attention towards players and coaching staff and also try to clear their dues.