ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) Acting Secretary General Muhammad Akhlaq Usmani has requested Prime Minister Imran Khan to provide funds to help the federation and hockey in fulfilling national and international commitments.

Talking to The Nation, Akhlaq said: “The federation is making the best efforts to revive hockey in Pakistan. All those critics, who level baseless allegations regarding funds embezzlement, should have used commonsense before such statements. We have arranged 27 international tours of national hockey team in last four years and each tour approximately cost the federation around Rs 10 million. While international XI and goalkeeping course under world’s elite goalkeepers were also managed in Karachi.

“We also conducted transparent audit from internationally-reputed firms, but the AGPR has also conducted audit. Our hands are neat and clean as we always put hockey above all personal ambitions, that is why, after four years absence, Pakistan hockey team participated in the World Cup in India, Champions Trophy in Netherlands, four-nation in Australia, besides conducted national championships and a number of other beneficial things for the players and Pakistan hockey. We kept on ensuring maximum activities so that the players must get more and more chances,” he added.

He said all that good work was done by PHF president Brig (R) Khalid Sajjad Khokar through his personal efforts. “For the last one year or so, the government didn’t release financial grant to PHF. The PHF head was the one, who arranged funds to send team for World Cup, Champions Trophy and Asian Champions Trophy. He cleared dailies and other dues of the players and team management.

“Akhlaq said that the federation doesn’t need cash as it just wants government to take care of players and officials. “The Pro-Hockey League is starting from February 2 and the national team is leaving from Lahore on January 27. The first match is on February 2 and second match is on February 3 in Argentina. The team will then travel to Australia to play two matches and then to New Zealand to play two matches.

“The second leg of Pro-Hockey League will be held in April in England, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Spain while two matches each will also be played in these countries. We need a total of around 27.5 million as we want to play total 16 matches of Pro-League. We need funds desperately, as it is a matter of the country’s respect.”

The PHF secretary said that the federation has finalised the first-ever Pakistan Hockey Super League (PHSL), which will be held in the third week of March. “Total six teams will be in action in Lahore as each team will include two international players as well. The entire expenses will be arranged through private sponsors. We won’t take a single penny from government for the PHSL.

“We have to conduct National U-19 Junior Championship, which is delayed for a month due to acute shortage of funds. This year, we have to play in the 2020 Olympic qualifiers, which will be held in October as the venue and dates are yet be finalized. It is a huge event and we are optimistic about qualifying for 2020 Olympics this time around.”

“Hockey is our national game but the government’s step-motherly treatment to hockey is disheartening. Without putting finances, nobody can even think about participation in the mega events, winning is a far cry. We are committed to take Pakistan hockey to new heights, which is absolutely possible, if government provides us due grants and corporate sector also plays it due role to help PHF achieve its goals,” Usmani concluded.