ISLAMABAD - Pakistan hockey team head coach/manager Olympian Shahnaz Sheikh met with Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) Minister Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada at his office on Thursday.

Talking to The Nation, Shahnaz said that Mian Riaz was very supportive and assured his all-out support for Pakistan hockey in the best possible manner. “Riaz demanded gold medal from the green shirts and I want Pakistan hockey team to return from Asian Games by successfully defending title. We had witnessed Pakistan hockey on top which has been suffering badly due to the recent debacles especially its ouster from the recent Hockey World Cup. It hurts while watching national game of the country declining with each passing day.”

Shahnaz said that he assured the minister that the team was capable enough to defend the title, but also requested to him to use his influence and request Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif to release the special grant of the PHF as early as possible as already too much precious time has been wasted. “I request Riaz to try to clear the financial assistance before the departure of the national team for the Asian Games.”

“I informed the minister about the difficulties we have been facing due to acute shortage of funds. We remained unable to arrange even a single international series. I also requested the minister to make arrangements for hockey team’s early departure to South Korea as it will help us practice well there and adjust in the situation,” he said.

Shahnaz added: “It is not only the Asian Games title which is on stake, but also future of Pakistan hockey is on stake, as it is the direct ticket for the Reo de Janeiro 2016 Olympics, if we manage to successfully defend the title. God forbids, if the national team fails to do so, it has to adopt long hard procedure and have to play qualifying matches to book Olympics berth. I am very thankful to Mian Riaz who promised to look into this matter and manage to meet the prime minister as well as arrange a meeting of hockey federation officials with the PM.”

“All the 27 players have reported in the training camp where we have practice session. The teams of Army, Navy and Rawalpindi-Islamabad Combined XI have also reported on Thursday for the single league matches involving Pakistan Greens team, but due to heavy downpour and wet conditions of the Naseer Bunda Stadium, both the matches on the inaugural day were washed out. We tried and waited for several hours to at least play 30 minutes matches, but it was also not possible,” he said.

“I am quite hopeful today (Friday) matches will be played as per schedule, but weather forecast is not in our favor. We can only hope and pray the proposed matches to be held, as this is the last realistic chance to give boys at least some kind of match practice, otherwise, we will be left with no other option but to reach Korea earlier and play matches against different opponents,” Shahnaz concluded.