ISLAMABAD - Pakistan hockey team captain Rizwan Senior has termed Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) President Brig (R) Khalid Sajjad Khokhar as man of principles, who always tries his best to promote hockey and its players.

Talking to The Nation, Rizwan said: “The criticism made by some certain quarters is highly unjustified. I am playing for Pakistan for last decade and I can easily claim that after a long time, the green shirts are back on right track and this is purely due to the personal efforts of Brig Khokhar and Olympian Shahbaz Senior.”

He said people must understand that Pakistan hockey team was taking last breaths when Brig Khokhar and Shahbaz took over some three years back. “Yes, we lost the Asian Games semifinals and couldn’t win the third place match against India, but before levelling allegations and criticizing the PHF. People must understand that we play superb and flawless hockey throughout the Asian Games and it was purely a bad day that we lost to Japan by just one goal.

“It was unfortunate that we concede a goal and despite our hectic efforts and some controversial decisions which went against us, we could not pull off the victory, while we lost 1-2 against India. We are gradually improving and hopefully, we will do well in the coming events.”

He said they were not getting enough money for the last six months, but Brig Khokhar ensured to clear all the dues before leaving to Jakarta. “The induction of foreign coach also done wonders for the team. We should have won the Asian Games, which would have ensured a direct qualification for 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but we can still qualify for the Olympics. We are aiming to grab first 8 spot in the coming World Cup in India, which will ensure our passage to Olympics.  “We will try our best to secure semifinals spot, as winning the World Cup would be a huge statement. I don’t want to put team under pressure and I know we have improved a lot. I hope that one bad day will not come again to haunt Pakistan hockey team. Hopefully, we will deliver goods for federation and for the nation,” he added.

Rizwan said one thing is crystal clear that without investing heavily, Pakistan hockey can’t reach to the top. “The team need to take part in international events to get maximum international exposure and confidence to play against the best in the business. In past, government has invested heavily and we managed to win the Asian Games in 2010. I can assure if Prime Minister Imran Khan releases substantial grant for the federation, results will be highly positive.

“Never mind the Dutch coach had left Pakistan team, but it was due to certain reason and that was mainly due to acute shortage of funds. Had the federation had finances, he could have never left, as he had witnessed drastic improvement in players’ and we were there to stay,” he added.

The captain said that he wants to tell people a very simple fact that he has great respect for former Olympians Naveed Alam and Khalid Bashir. “They were on board with the present setup for almost three years and now left the federation and started speaking against the PHF. Now, it is very clear that fight is for posts not for improvement of hockey. It is my humble request to them to join hands with PHF to help Pakistan hockey regain lost glory,” he added.

“The Asian Champions Trophy is round the corner and we don’t have funds, while the camp is on and there is no money. The World Cup is also a month away, so the government should understand our problems and have mercy on national game and let the federation work devotedly for the sake of country and hockey,” Rizwan concluded.