ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) secretary Shahbaz Ahmad Senior has confirmed that the FIH has approved Scotland as home of Pakistan hockey from 2019 to 2022.

Talking to The Nation, Shahbaz said the PHF had requested the FIH to allow the country to pick Scotland as neutral venue to host international matches and series due to security concerns, and by the grace of Almighty, the FIH has approved it. This will certainly help Pakistan hockey a great deal and also attract the youngsters towards adopting hockey as a profession.”

Shahbaz said that like Pakistan cricket team, which had picked UAE as neutral venue, the PHF had made request to the FIH, which was upheld. “From now on to 2019, Pakistan will be able to host top hockey playing nations like Australia, Argentina, Netherlands, Germany and others.”

When asked wouldn’t it be very expensive for the federation, which is already cash strapped, and how will it bear such huge expenses and had Scotland Hockey Federation (SHF) promised the PHF to provide maximum facilities and less charges, Shahbaz replied: “Off course, we need around Rs 70 to 80 million for that purpose, but one must also remember at least Rs 30 million have been spent on only one foreign tour of green shirts, while on the other hand, the advantage and exposure of playing against top sides of the world will boost hockey in Pakistan and green shirts will learn a lot while playing against the top sides of the world.  “If we compare benefits, then expenditures are nothing. At some stage, we have to take that step to revive hockey in Pakistan, as young generation is fast declining to adopt hockey as professional careers and more interested in playing cricket,” he added.

He said PHF president Brig (R) Khalid Sajajd Khokar had been doing a fantastic job of arranging finances and also ensuring his presence at every given venue in Pakistan. “The PHF president motivated the players and provided jobs to the players, which was the most important thing and missing since long. During our playing days, hockey players were hired by different departments including PIA, but now situation is alarming, nobody is ready to form hockey team, which is main reason behind lack of youngsters’ interest in playing hockey.

“We will ensure not only jobs and central contracts but also maximum facilities for the players, so that they may completely focus on playing the game and enhancing their skills rather than thinking about ways and means how to earn bread and butter for their families,” he added.

When asked about green shirts’ performance against minnows Ireland was not up to the mark and how they bounce back in the World Hockey League's semifinal round in London starting from June 15, Shahbaz replied: “I am quite sure the green shirts will bounce back in style and will qualify for the next year’s Hockey World Cup to be played in India. Conditions in Ireland were completely different and they were playing in colder conditions, while weather in England will be hot and favourable for Pakistan team.

“Yes our pool is quite tough with the likes of Netherlands, China, Scotland and arch-rivals India, but the boys will handle the pressure. The main objective of sending team 15 days earlier was to provide them chance to adapt to conditions and get much-needed match practice prior to the mega event, while Ireland used 32 players in the series and we had only 18 player. It was a good learning experience for the boys. Both Brig Khokhar and I had talked to the players, coach and team management and they are relaxed and motivated and waiting for the real test. Skipper Abdul Haseem Khan is highly confident with the players performance,” he added.

When asked if Pakistan qualify for 2018 World Cup and in case India refuse to provide visas to the team, what will be the strategy of PHF, Shahbaz said: “Let Pakistan qualify for the World Cup, we are fully focused on qualification and it is first and foremost priority. After this, we will ponder over this issue as well.”