ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) chief selector Islahuddin Siddiqui announced 18-member national squad for the tour for Europe starting from September 1-10, after witnessing the trials here at Naseer Bunda International Hockey Stadium on Wednesday.

Khalid Bashir and Musaddiq Hussain accompanied Islah, while other two members of selection committee Arshad Ali Ch Ayaz Mahmood were not present on the occasion. Arshad is in UK, while Ayaz was in Karachi while head coach Shahnaz Sheikh was also present on the occasion.

Talking to the reporters, Islahuddin said: “I have talked to the PHF president Ch Akhtar Rasool and Ayaz and the team is announced purely on merit keeping in mind their physical fitness and performance during the last three months or so.”

“Eight players are selected for the Europe tour. We have to further cut two players as we have to field 16-member squad for the Asian Games. We will assert players’ performance during the Spain tour and then announce the final 16-member squad for the Asian Games,” he added.

He said the players had not played any international hockey for the last 10 months or so, as were out of the world cup and didn't take part in Commonwealth Games as well while on the other hand, Korea, Malaysia and India are playing regular international hockey besides taking part in high-profile events. “It is our wish and sincere prayers that green shirts defend their Asian Games title and perform accordingly, but one must be realistic and the ground reality is that it will take at least four years to take Pakistan hockey back to victory stand.”

“It is my humble request to Prime Minister Mian M Nawaz Sharif, who is also the patron of PHF, to spare some time for the federation and listen to our genuine demands, provide players with jobs and allocate special funds for the federation. The school and club hockey revival is the need of the hour, as long as these areas are not addressed. It will be very difficult to find fresh talent and it is true the selected squad is based on same old players, who are representing the country for the last several years, but we can't include junior players at least for the time being as we have to depend on seniors to produce results for the time being,” Islah added.

“The PHF will announce the name of the captain and vice captain and tour management committee soon. But I think Imran Senior will be the skipper, while Shafqat Rasool or Shakeel Abbasi can be named as his deputy,” he disclosed.

When asked about did he take instructions from the PHF president for finalizing the names of the squad,” he replied: “Yes, it was purely the selection committee's decision, while president was just informed about the final squad.”

When asked about why did it take the selectors more than an hour to announce the squad and why he kept on taking instructions from PHF president and he made changes on the directives, Islah said: “No, neither I change any name nor I took any instructions. I am sorry journalists had to wait, but I was sharing details with Ayaz and the president. They fully endorsed the squad finalized by the selection committee and we also took advice from head coach Shahnaz Sheikh.”

When this scribe asked Shahnaz why goalkeeper Imran Shah left the squad in the morning, Shahnaz replied: “Imran informed about his mother’s illness and took permission from him. It is rubbishing that Imran has serious differences with him.” When asked why was he not selected in the squad, Shahnaz replied: “He was not present during the trials.”

It is pertinent to mention here that all the claims of the federation and the chief selector regarding the selection committee is fully powerful in announcing the squad looked completely null and void as Islah looked confused, under pressure and just followed the directives of the PHF president Chaudhry Akhtar Rasool. Despite journalists strong protests, as they had to wait for more than two hours to get the names of the squad, Islah didn't bother to disconnect mobile call, several requests were made to head coach Shahnaz Sheikh to ask Islah to announce the squad, but Shahnaz looked completely helpless.

The 18-member squad for European tour includes Imran Butt, Amjed Ali, M Imran, M Irfan, Kashif Shah, Aamir Shahzad, Ammad Shakeel Butt, Tauseeq Ahmed, Fareed Ahmed, Rashid Mehmood, Rizwan Junior, Waqas Sharif, Umar Bhutta, Shafqat Rasool, Haseem Khan, M Dilber, Shakeel Abbasi and Rizwan Senior.

The nine-member standby squad includes Mazhar Abbas, Zahid Ullah, Tasawar Abbas, Faisal Qadir, Zohaib Ashraf, Arsalan Qadir, Rana Umair, Rizwan Ali and Kashif Ali.

The camp will be shifted to Lahore on 16th, while team will practice at Naseer Bunda Stadium today (Thursday). The national team will play Independence Day match against Pakistan Whites on August 17 at National Hockey Stadium, Lahore.