The year 2012 passed away with many good notes and one of those is the improving performance of hockey team. The greenshirts won bronze medal in Super Series Hockey 9's by defeating India; they again beat India in Men’s Champion Trophy and won bronze medal and then in December they won gold medal in Asian Champion Trophy. Our team has started to regain their lost glory which it enjoyed and remained up in the clouds for three decades. After remaining at low for many long years, the team is steadily improving and is focusing 2014 World Cup. The driving force behind this revival is Mr Qasim Zia , a man of sublime credential who took the charge of Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) as its 23rd President in 2008. He was a legendary hockey star of his era and won a gold medal in the 1982 World Cup. In his playing days he used to be a great defender. He represented Pakistan in the 1984 Summer Olympics and the Hockey World Cup in 1986. He scored 15 goals in 87 games. Fours years back when Mr Zia became the president of PHF, he said that he would do wonders for the national game; which is now turning into reality as our hockey team is showing good performance and winning laurels for the country. Initially, Mr Zia set a target for himself and for the team to regain its lost glory at Asia level which he achieved in 2010 when Pakistan won Asian Games. Mr Zia did not attain his proclaimed targets easily rather he burnt midnight oil with other official and with the team members; he gathered funds which PHF had severe dearth. He brought hundreds of millions of rupees to rejuvenate hockey and to facilitate the players at maximum level.

One fine evening we caught Mr Zia at his PHF office in Qaddafi Stadium when he was busy in performing his official duties. He gave a few moments from his busy schedule to talk about his struggles which he is doing to bring hockey back to its lost status at international level. This exclusive interview started with a happy note of Pakistan’s recent victories in Men’s Champion Trophy and Asian Champion Trophy in which it won bronze medal and gold medal respectively by defeating India. Mr Zia was happy that Pakistan maintained its Asian supremacy and applauded the collective efforts of players and team’s officials. Talking about Men’s Champion Trophy he said, “There were top eight teams and Pakistan got wild card entry in this tournament. It proved a very good experience for our players as they got the chance to play with international teams and they performed well. With grace of God our team won the bronze medal. I hope in the time to come they will play better and get more successes.”.

When asked that why the team could not win any medal in Olympics 2012 he said that losing from Australia was a bad luck for Pakistan. “The performance of Pakistani team is improving quickly. It qualified for the semi final. Losing the match was unfortunate but it is also part of game. Secondly, it is unfair to expect from the team of ninth number to win a gold medal.”

Then conversation took a turn towards the efforts he had done for the federation and to improve the performance of the team and to know about his plans for the team in the time to come. Elaborating his efforts for PHF, Mr Zia explained the whole scenario of Pakistan Hockey Team when he took hold of the position as president. “When I became the president of PHF, Pakistan was 6th in Asia and 8th in the world. In this world rating, those 5 teams were not included which were above us in Asia; so if those teams are also included then Pakistan was actually at 12th position in the world. First I set the target of being No 1 in Asia within two years and in the second phase we have to be in top four teams of the world and then to retain that position. With the grace of God we became the Asian Champion in 2010 after 20years. Now we have all the Asian titles,” he continued. Talking about the international level he said, “After winning this bronze medal by defeating India we have not only maintained our Asian supremacy but also improved in world ranking. According to the tournament we are in top four and according to World ranking we are in top five. It is the grace of God that we are going towards our target.”

On a question about the facilities he had provided to the team he answered with an expressions of great satisfaction that PHF had equipped the team with all the modern equipment. “PHF has all the modern machineries and necessary equipment like fitness test machine which it requires. Let me tell you that there are only three or four teams in the world like Australia, Holland, Germany which are using this modern equipment which PHF has for its players. Now our team needs maximum experience of playing with good teams like Australia, India. ,” he stated. When inquired about playing the match series with India which was in the news recently, he said that it would start soon. He also made it sure that both the teams would visit each other’s countries to play this series.

When inquired about the budget of the federation he smiled and said, “The annual official budget of the federation is only Rs. 6 millions which is very little.” How did he manage the federation expenses in that nominal amount was the next spontaneous query for which he replied that he tried to keep the stone rolling by one way or the other. “I am the president so I think it is my responsibility to manage funds for the federation in order to facilitate my players. Most of my time goes for the same activity; once I am requesting the federal government for the funds and the other time I am asking support from the provincial government.

“However, in near future I hope the corporate sector will come forward to support hockey and we will be getting sufficient sponsorships because our team has started to perform well and has started to win laurels. Secondly, I also expect that soon the teams of other countries will be visiting Pakistan which had stopped to come because of Pakistani circumstances and it will boost the image of the country,” he stated.

To boost the interest of the young generation, he said that he was in talks with the media to cover the hockey matches. In this regard he had signed a special agreement with PTV Sports and according to that it would telecast all the matches.

When asked that how much budget he thinks is sufficient for the federation, he said that a budget of minimum Rs. 600 millions can help him to get a far better team. “In Pakistan there are very few player who belong to affluent families and play games professionally. Mostly, sportsmen belong to poor families and to support such talented players PHF needs at least Rs. 600 millions. In this way the federation can support hockey players at the grass root level and can also provide maximum equipment to the clubs and can facilitate more children playing in the rural areas,” he explained.

Mr Zia is often criticised by his former colleagues. When asked how he takes the criticism, he said that healthy criticism is always welcomed and he takes it positively. “I always encourage that the seniors should point out our weaknesses and also recommend measures how to improve. What I request is that they should focus hockey and not me,” he stated.

On a question that what he was doing to improve the domestic structure of hockey, he elaborated the academies system he had introduced throughout the country. “The trend of playing hockey deteriorated in our country. It is no more played in schools and colleges and because of that PHF was not getting fresh players; so to have a new lot of players I established hockey academies in every city where the Astroturf fields are available. In every academy there are 33 boys which are the students of 8th, 9th   and the 10th class - 11 children from the each class. Senior players and coaches provide training to these children. PHF has provided all the necessary equipment, dresses and Rs. 1500 as stipend to every boy.

“Besides, we are also starting a local league to improve the domestic structure of hockey and for that we need resources,” he explained.

When questioned about the hockey infrastructure in the country and whether he was satisfied with it, his response was in negative. He lamented that Pakistan had only 16 Astroturf and among those only eight were in working condition.  He briefed, “There should be at least one Astroturf in each district which means we need almost 100 more. It will help the hockey players to play on the turf instead on grass because technically playing on grass does not build properly the sports muscles.”

Casting light on the role of a coach and the real performance of a player in the playfield, he said, “Game has become a science and the role of a coach has become even more important in this science. A coach not only gives training to the team but also has to make strategies according to the rival team. He gives the basic strategy and explains the strong points and weak points of the rival team. But in spite of all these strategies and training tips, players have the vital role because the game is fast and its every minute becomes challenging moment which can change the perspective of the whole game.

“The real performance of a player comes at that time when he has to decide at the spur of the moment that what is right according to the changing situation and Pakistani players are very good in it.” He also made it clear that Pakistani team was trained by local and international coaches. “Foreign coach worked almost one and a half year with the team and now our local coaches are good. They are giving very good training,” he explained.

When asked that where did he want to see the team in his tenure as the President of PHF, he said that he aimed to see his hockey team as the No 1 in the world. He showed his determination for winning the World Cup 2014. “Our sole focus is World Cup 2014 and we are preparing for that. I want Pakistan to win this World Cup,” he maintained.

He smiled and his eyes started to glow with happiness when asked him to share some of his moments from his career as a player which he still cherishes. He shared, “There are many happy moments of my career but some are very special and dear to my heart. One is the final of Asian Cup in which Pakistan defeated India from 7-1; and I did first two goals. What was more pleasing was that the whole Indian Cabinet including Indira Gandhi was present in the stadium to watch that match. It was a big moment for me that the Pakistani flag fluttered high on the Indian soil and our national anthem was being sung there. Similarly I cherish to remember the Olympic which we won in America.”