ISLAMABAD - Pakistan hockey team head coach and manager Shahnaz Sheikh has urged Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif to meet with hockey players and officials which can prove helpful in regaining lost hockey glory.

Talking to The Nation, Shahnaz said: “The meeting of hockey players and officials with the prime minister is very essential as the meeting and incentives by PM will not only boost players’ morale but also encourage them to help the country regain lost hockey glory.”

He said he was completely in dark and hoped the federation would be in touch on this issue. “But I request the prime minister to spare some time before Olympic qualifiers and meet with the team and officials to boost their morale for the Olympic qualifiers.”

The former Olympian demanded the Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) ministry and the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) to order lying down of fresh astro-turf on Naseer Bunda Hockey Stadium (NBHS) on immediate basis. “We love to conduct camp at Islamabad as we get over the moon facilities there along with meal and accommodation. Assistant director hostels Malik Imtiaz Hussain takes extraordinary care of players and officials, but the poor state of astro-turf forced us to shift the camp to Lahore, as injury ratio was alarming. We can't afford such amount of injuries keeping in mind some high profile events, including four-nation hockey championship in Hobart, Australia, five-match test series against Korea and the Olympic qualifiers. We time and again requested PSB DG Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera to start serious efforts on astro-turf or else forget about thinking even ordinary results.”

To a query regarding facilities being provided to the players in the Sports Board Punjab (SBP), Shahnaz said: “The facilities here are normal, but there is absolutely no comparison between what we get in Islamabad and here in the SBP. We are shifting the players to Heritage Hotel on Thursday night, as there are number of issues being faced by them here. We have to provide best accommodation and food to players as they are getting nothing else from the federation due to tight financial situation of the PHF. The players are just playing for sheer love of the country so we want to ensure at least better place where they may live with peace of mind.”

Shahnaz requested the IPC minister and the PSB to order immediate release of Rs 2 million pending with PSB Rs 1 million of Asian Games and Rs 1 million of Champions Trophy. Although it is a very meager amount yet at least it can provide some relief to the players. Now after a lapse of almost eight months since Asian Games and four months since Champions Trophy, I think already too much time has been wasted. I hope action will be taken and the amount will be released not later than May. As players should be given some cash incentives before the Olympic qualifiers as it will put a new lease of life in them and play a decisive role in helping them earn a place for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

When asked about long absent duo of Rashid Mehmood and Rizwan Senior, Shahnaz replied: “They are still playing league in Europe and will join the team in the Olympic qualifiers. They will miss 4-nation hockey championship in Australia and 5-match series against Korea. Though we will miss their services during these two events, but we have enough depth and all the other players are capable enough to deliver for the country.”

About the actual status of the special grant, Shahnaz said: “I heard the grant will be released shortly. We are more focused on playing quality hockey and produce results. It is up to the federation to arrange funds and look after the players.”