ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) chief selector Olympian Islahuddin Siddiqui along with selector Mussadaq Hussin announced 18-member national hockey team Friday for the Olympic qualifiers to be played in Belgium from June 20.
Addressing a press conference here at Naseer Bunda Hockey Stadium after the trials, Islah said: “We are still in grief and shock over the sad demise of our colleague and Olympian Arshad Ali Chawdhry, who passed away in Lahore the other day.”
When asked about other selection committee members, Islah said: “Ayaz is in Karachi and Khalid Basheer in Qatar, but I have discussed the selected team with them on phone and announcing the squad with their consent.”
To a query regarding exclusion of hero of Champions Trophy held in India Arslan Qadir, Islah replied: “I have discussed in detail with head coach Shahnaz Sheikh particularly on Arslan. He was playing excellent hockey in India, but after that he failed to live up to the expectations and didn’t perform well in Australia and Korea. Hockey has changed now and we can't pick players on past reputations and performances, as the only criterion of selection is consistent performances. Our doors are open for all the players, and those who perform, will be included in the national squad.”
About forward Shakeel Abbasi’s exclusion, Islah said: “Shakeel is still in the plans, as if he regains his form and perform well, he will be very much part of the national team.”
“This team is only announced for Olympic qualifiers. With the prayers of entire nation and players’ performances, I hope we will qualify for 2016 Rio Olympics. The changes will be made later and Arslan, Shakil and others can make their way into the squad. 30 players were announced for the trials, 28 reported in the camp as two were playing leagues abroad, while two players got injured, so we selected 18 out of 26 available players,” he added.
About morals of the players looked a bit down and it would have been far better had federation
About release of dailies and other incentives for the players by the federation to boost their morals, Islah said: “All the players are playing for national cause. I don't feel their morals are down rather they are in high spirits and ready to play out their hearts for the country. Yes, I do agree dailies and other incentives should have been cleared by now. But as we all know the federation is in dire financial crunch but they will pay the dues of the players as soon as it gets the promised grant from government.”
“The team will fly to Belgium through Emirates Airline flight from Lahore on 15 early morning. Captain and vice captain will be announced by the federation on June 14,” Islah concluded.
When PSB Director General Technical and Training Dr Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera was asked about releasing of long-overdue incentives of the players which they earned by winning silver medals in Asian Games and Champions Trophy, Ganjera replied: “We are fully aware of the fact and hoping to receive pending Rs 65 million grant. As soon as we get that amount, we will release these incentives. No grant was allocated for incentives and prizes for the players in 2014-15 budget. We have allocated a huge sum of Rs 45 million which we will immediately release to all the athletes, who have done wonders for the country.”
It I pertinent to mention here that 24 players along with three officials including head coach Shahnaz Sheikh were finally granted Belgium visas on Friday afternoon. The PSB also released a sum of Rs 11.2 million for traveling, accommodation and dailies of the players, while the PHF has promised to provide remaining dailies and other amounts to players before the start of the mega event.
18-MEMBER SQUAD:
Imran Buttt, Mazhar Abbas (goalkeepers), M Imran, M Irfan, Kashif Shah (fullbacks), Ammad Butt, Tauseeq Ahmed, Rashid Mehmood, M Farid, Rizwan Junior (halfbacks), Waqas Sharif, Shafqat Rasool, Umar Bhutta, Rizwan Senior, Ali Shan, M Dilbar, M Kashif, Azfar Yaqoob (forwards). Four stand byes are Amjed (goalkeeper), Nawaz Ahmed (full back), Zohaib Arsha (half back) and Arsalan Qadir (forward).