LAHORE - Pakistan Hockey Federation president Brig (r) Khalid Sajjad Khokhar termed the visit of International XI and ‘Hall of Fame’ as the first drop towards the revival of international hockey in Pakistan.

Talking to The Nation, Khokhar said: “Look the atmosphere, the way youngsters and families thronged the first Abdul Sattar Edhi Stadium in Karachi and now the way Lahorites came to witness the match is a clear indication that masses still love the national game hockey but the lack of international hockey in Pakistan is the main reason behind youth’s less interest in the game.”

He said it is just first drop and it will continue. “Now the main target of the PHF is to host a major event soon besides three-nation international event. Firstly, the major event will most likely to be held in either Karachi or Lahore. In next three months, the laying of astroturf will start at Naseer Bunda Stadium in Islamabad, which will help the PHF to conduct international events there. We always get top class facilities from Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) on the special directions of IPC Minister Riaz Pirzada, who is a true sports lover and always lend a helping hand to not only the PHF, but all other federations.”

The PHF chief said: “We are grateful to FIH and Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) for their all-out support and helping us in the best possible way. We are now focusing on 3 or 4-nation tournament in Muscat, Oman. It will help Pakistan hockey a great deal. Winning or losing doesn’t matter, as we just want to provide our players international exposure, which will help them improve their game and skills and perform well against big guns.

“The way our youngsters performed against World XI players is enough to prove the point that PHF has been working well on the youngsters, who are asset of Pakistan hockey and help the country regain its lost hockey glory.

He said: “I once again request all the past greats and Olympians to come and join hands with us in the noble cause of taking Pakistan hockey to new heights. Leg pulling or creating hurdles in smooth functioning of PHF affairs will serve no purpose, as Pakistan team badly needs the sincere suggestion and assistance from all.

“My hands are neat and clean and for the very first time in the history, we have done audit of the federation through highly-reputed auditors and I want to make it very clear that we have not spent a single penny on personal joy-rides or taking meager benefits. I always emphasise on passing on all the benefits to the players, as they are the real stakeholders, who will ultimately bring glory to Pakistan. The long we provide them opportunities, international exposure, tournaments to our players, the better results they will produce. The youngsters have the determination, hunger and desire to excel, but they only lack in experience, which they will attain by playing in events like this,” he added.

Khokhar said he is always open to suggestions and ready to implement them. “I have mentioned so many times that I will not remain glued to the seat, as if I fail to deliver and implement my plans, I will quit. I can easily claim that now not a single hockey player, who has attended even national camp, is jobless, while we are also working on arranging more jobs and sponsorships for the national team.”

He said the PHF has hired the best coaches while professional legends are on board, who are working on plans. “Now this is world cup year and we are fully focused on giving the nation something to celebrate. We don’t have any magic lamp to overturn the fortunes of the national team overnight, but gradually, things are improving. The first edition of Pakistan Hockey League (PHL) will open floodgates of international hockey to Pakistan boost our efforts to surface fresh talent, while Commonwealth Games are also approaching fast, so we will establish training camp and it is upto chief selector and team management to decide where the camp should be held.”

When asked whether PHF will bring back senior players in the national team and rely on juniors, Khokhar said: “It is purely on chief selector and coaches to decide about it. If they feel they need some specific player or players, they are empowered to do so. I had never interfered and given free hand to them, as they are the ones, who are in the best position to decide about it. My main focus and utmost priority is to arrange tours, funds and jobs for the players and I am trying my level best to facilitate them in the best possible manner.”