ISLAMABAD

Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) patron Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif canceled the scheduled meeting with federation and players for the fourth time, which was earlier announced to be held today (Tuesday) and gave March 20 as new date.

It is pertinent to mention here that the PM had thrice invited the federation and team for meeting in the past, but all those meetings failed to take place due to the PM's hectic schedule and now it was expected the meeting would finally take place on March 20.

When contacted Pakistan hockey team head coach and manager Olympian Shahnaz Sheikh in this regard, he confirmed the meeting would now be held on March 20. “I think the PM is busy otherwise he would have long listened to our genuine complaints. The country is facing a lot of crisis and the PM has other very important areas to look after. I have full confidence in prime minister as soon as he gets some free time, he will certainly meet with us to resolve the issues being faced by Pakistan hockey and the federation.”

Shahnaz said the players had not trained together since the final of the Champions Trophy in India on December 14. “Though the players participated in three national level events, national championship in Sialkot, Quaid-e-Azam Gold Cup in Karachi and 1st CAS Hockey Championships, yet we need training camp as we have three back-to-back events, the first one is Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia, Australian tour and then Olympic Qualifying round in Belgium from June 20 to July 5.”

He said he had talked to PHF president Chaudhry Akhtar Rasool, secretary Rana Mujahid and chief selector Islahuddin Siddiqui and informed them about conducting training camp at Islamabad for at least three weeks initially. “We were completely satisfied with the facilities being provided to us at Pakistan Sports Complex Islamabad, as we were provided best meal, accommodation at Allama Iqbal hostel and assistant director hostels Malik Imtiaz Hussian took good care of boys and team management during the previous camp. We just have reservations on poor astro-turf condition of Naseer Bunda Stadium. The PSB promised to completely up-grade it but no pragmatic step has been taken yet. If Naseer Bunda astro-turf is upgraded well in time, it will be the best place to train the players for international events.”

“We will play the Olympic Qualifying matches with highly visible yellow ball, which was previously used during the London 2012 Olympics. Last time, we played Asian Games with less shinning yellow balls, which resulted in head injury to goalkeeper Imran Butt in the semifinals, but this time, we would train with similar balls to get use to the balls which will help us do well in Olympic Qualifiers. We have requested the PSB to start the camp and now waiting for their positive response. I hope the camp will be started soon as we are running well short of time for the upcoming events,” Shahnaz concluded.