ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) president Chaudhry Akhtar Rasool said Pakistan are looking to defend their Asian Games title to guarantee an automatic berth in the Olympics and avoid qualifiers for the mega event.

Talking to The Nation on Tuesday Akhtar said with the prayers of millions of Pakistanis he had recovered after spending one month in hospital. “I was very serious and spend several days in ICU but now I am feeling much better and God has given me new lease of life to put Pakistan hockey on right track.”

He said Asian Games always remained top most priority of the federation though lack of funds had hampered Pakistan’ preparations. “I am quite hopeful we would soon get Rs100 million announced by Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif. The Punjab government had released the amount and it is now lying with Pakistan Sports Board (PSB). We would meet PSB in a day or two and quite sure that the promised amount would be issued to federation. We would also hold a meeting with Punjab Sports Minister Rana Mashud in next couple of days and discuss in detail problems faced by the federation and their solution.”

About non-participation in Sultan Azlan Shah Cup he said it was an event where we wanted to give chance to our youngsters and were not relying heavily on it for our preparation. He said the PHF took on board ex-Olympians and other hockey related persons and all of them suggested that due to financial crunch and non-availability of funds, it would be far better to skip the event and we made the decision of not participating in Sultan Azlan Shah Cup with consensus and I defend that decision as it was in the best interest of the team and country.

He said the PHF is giving top priority on domestic structure. “We have already organised event at domestic level and now working on organising All-Pakistan Hockey Championship very soon. We had convened executive body meeting on 10th of this month where we would decide about conducting of camp for Asia Cup, selection committee both for senior and junior teams and other important issues would be discussed in detail during the meeting. “I am confident we would decide all the important issues during the meeting and it would also be decided when and where to hold Asian Games camp,” he added.

“We are very thankful to Olympians who had joined hands with the federation for single cause and that is to promote Pakistan hockey and take it back to the old glory days. It is my humble request to all the past greats to shun differences for the sake of the country and let us work jointly on that noble cause. Nation expects a lot from us and we had to deliver and as we are carrying the hopes of entire nation, we can’t afford to take this issue of grave importance lightly. I am very serious about the future of Pakistan hockey and with the grace of God we would reach new heights soon,” Akhtar concluded.