ISLAMABAD - Private group ARY has stepped up to help the national hockey team after the players had urged the government to release funds to the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) for the payment of the team’s six-month daily allowances.

The group came forward after the players protested to clear their dues in order to participate at the upcoming Asian Games, set to begin from August 18 in Indonesia. “We will help the federation in all possible means, including in the Asian Games,” said the group. “We will be helping the PHF in clearing the dues of the players.”

In reply to this, PHF president Brig (Rr) Khalid Sajjad Khokhar said that they are thankful to the group for helping the team in their time of need. “We are trying to give the players all possible facilities despite facing financial issues,” he said. “We are also trying to take on board all stakeholders and all resources are being used to improve the condition of the national sport.”

The PHF chief said: “These players are like my own kids and family. I can never even think about letting my kids and nation down. People must understand that we are the only office-bearers till date, who conducted the audit of federation’s funds through independent auditors while AGPR auditors also conducted audit of the PHF. Transparency and merit hold key for me and Shahbaz. Despite not being fully fit and fighting with life-threatening decease, I never discontinued work and remained in contact with Shahbaz.”

He said they are fully focused on the Asian Games. “At a time, when hockey was completely dead and buried, I along with my team put a new lease of life in it. The legends were brought in Pakistan, World XI team toured the country and international goalkeepers conducted camps in Karachi.

“In highly limited resources, we managed to streamline the things, arranged international tours of not only senior, junior but also youth teams, while appointed top class international coaches just to take green shirts to next level. I once again promise that I won’t sit back and provide every possible facility to players,” Khokhar said.

Khohkar also said that he was very disappointed to hear that a few players have put national interest aside just for few bucks and they are trying to blackmail the federation to take advantage of its poor financial position. “I have made it clear on number of occasions that the players and team management dues will be cleared before departure to Jakarta for Asian Games.

“Even if government doesn’t release the PHF grant, I will clear the dues from my own pocket. I am a man of words and principles and I can understand the problems of the players. It is very difficult to survive without money, but they also must remember that from the day one, I have fulfilled all the promises made with the nation and players,” he added.

He said when he took over, the federation owed millions of rupees to not only players, coaches and team management, but also to different vendors, and by the grace of Almighty, the current PHF managed to clear players and management dues, which were pending since long and the remaining few will also be cleared soon. “It is only the matter of time before Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and government will release PHF funds and as soon as we get the grant, we will immediately clear the dues of players and management.”

Khokhar said a few certain elements tried to aggravate the situation just for their personal interests and tried to use players for their vested interest. “But I am glad that all the senior players, including a few ones, whose names were mentioned in the media, have rubbished the claims of boycotting the camp and Games.

A few senior players, while talking to The Nation, said that they have clarified the federation that they never meant to sabotage all the good work done by the PHF. “We know that they we bright chances of winning the Asiad medal. We just wanted government to release the PHF grant, as without money, how can we run our kitchens and day-to-day affairs.

“We never meant to turn our backs on the country. We have full faith in Brig Khokhar and secretary Olympian Shahbaz Senior and we know they are doing wonderful job and they are determined to improve standard of the national game and want to take it to new heights,” they added.