LAHORE - Netherlands world class dragfliker (short corner) specialist Floris Jan Bovelander Saturday said it was being like homecoming as he was back to Pakistan after almost two decades and was highly thankful to Pakistan Hockey Federation president Brig (R) Khalid Sajjad Khokhar and his close friend and former rival Shahbaz Ahmed Senior for giving him this opportunity.

Bovelander, who was undisputed king of short corners said it’s always been great to visit Pakistan as it is the century, where Holland managed to win its only hockey world cup. “I had managed to win in Lahore, it was not a happy moment for the hosts Pakistan as we managed to beat them but trust me, I along with my teammates were highly surprised to witness that despite Pakistan losing the final against Netherlands, the local crowd was supporting us. I had strong rivalry with one of the most decorated, blessed players Pakistan and world hockey had ever witnessed Shahbaz Senior. We were rivals on the pitch for more than a decade, but we had tremendous respect for each other off the pitch.”

He said having witnessed Pakistan juniors playing against the international XI was a good feeling. “I can see, Pakistan have few good juniors, whom if properly trained and provided with international exposure, might go on to serve Pakistan hockey for decades as they are still very young. They played very well in the first 15 minutes and put much experienced International XI under enormous pressure, which was good to see. I had witnessed green shirts rise and also sadly they are not enjoying same success, which they used to enjoy during the Shahbaz era. Having said that, Pakistan team committed too many mistakes, which was expected, as they had not played against such professional players before and they are bound to learn with each passing day.”

When asked what was the difference he had noticed between Shahbaz playing days and now and where he finds Pakistan team lack and whether he thinks Shahbaz and Brig Khokhar are the perfect ones who could take Pakistan hockey where it belongs. Bovelnder said he was not interacted with Pakistan hockey since long and he can’t exactly say where they lack and what were the reasons behind their downfall.

“But on the whole when sports suffer there is naturally a sharp decline being witnessed in all sports not only hockey. There are lot of reasons, live telecast of matches is a major factor behind youth are not taking interest in hockey. While school, college hockey is also important to attract youth, I seriously think, as a former great Shahbaz is the man, along with a highly dedicated president Brig Khalid, who both look highly determined and want to take Pakistan hockey to new heights. In fact, I came to Pakistan just because of my friend Shahbaz. I found Pakistanis are highly passionate, although it was highly thin crowd present on the first match, but even then, when Pakistan team took lead there was awesome noise and crowd rose to their seats and there was clearly a sense of expectation. I am highly honoured that PHF inducted us to Hall of Fame, which is indeed a huge honour for me.”

He said he was cherishing this moment being part of the international hockey return to Pakistan and he would love to help Pakistan hockey stand back to its feet.

He said he would definitely want to travel to this part again as he never felt any kind of security issue. He urged other international players to think about coming to Pakistan.

Bovelander admired the PHF for working on positive lines and said their efforts can bring desired resuts for Pakistan hockey.

“Pakistan hockey needs international help and I am ready to help Pakistan. They are really wonderful, loving people, I can see the generation, who had never seen me playing were so anxiously wanted to have photograph with me. The old people were also in the ground in such good numbers, slowly and gradually, if the matches were broadcast live or even on television regularly, it will help Pakistan hockey a great deal.”

When asked about who was the best player whom he had played against, Bovelnder replied, undoubtedly Shahbaz was the best. “His dribbles, skills, goal scoring habit, he was the best I had ever played against. We had mutual respect and he is my best friend. Playing 10 years against each other all-around the world, we had always shared good moments.

He said he didn’t think the lack of international hockey being played in Pakistan is the reason behind hockey decline. “I can see, if matches are shown on television, other city players will get huge boost. The people will have more chances of watching hockey and I feel, as the national game of Pakistan, hockey deserve more attention,” Bovelander concluded.