Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) on Monday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Afghanistan Hockey Federation (AHF) to provide technical assistance in restructuring and reformation of the game in Afghanistan on modern lines, becoming the first country to lend support to the AHF.

Talking at a news conference along with PHF secretary M Asif Bajwa after the MoU signing ceremony held here at National Hockey Stadium on Monday, AHF secretary Mirwais Bahawi said: “It is a historic day in the history of Afghan hockey that the PHF will be providing them support to re-organise the game in our war-torn country.”

He said the game of hockey was not new to Afghanistan which participated in 1936 and 1940 Olympics and won fourth position in the former. Now they have started efforts with a renewed zeal to make it a game of masses in Afghanistan.

“The passion for hockey is ever-growing and youth is taking keen interest to take up hockey as a sport and we have around 500 to 600 hockey playing players,” said the AHF official.

“We are going through a tough time in the prevailing circumstances and Pakistan is the first country to support the cause of Afghan hockey for which we are very thankful to them. Pakistan has a glorious past in the game and its guidance to help reorganise the game will play a paramount role in the overall development of the game in Afghanistan,” added the AHF secretary.

To a query, the AHF Secretary replied: “No, there are no astro-turf on their grounds as Afghan youth was playing hockey on grassy fields or concrete surfaces and they are trying to lay synthetic turf to provide training their players on modern lines.”

According to the three-year MoU, the PHF will extend technical assistance in restructuring the game by helping them to setup hockey academies on the pattern of the academies functioning in major cities of Pakistan to polish the raw talent. The PHF will also give a donation of 100 hockey sticks and 100 balls to the AHF.

PHF secretary Asif Bajwa said that the three Afghan teams would visit Pakistan every year and the PHF would bear their expense. “We will be inviting their national team and two junior teams to undergo two-week training and activities every year in Pakistan,” he added.

He said the PHF was supporting the cause of hockey whenever and wherever its services were needed and they had signed an MOU with the Afghan hockey as a part of its development plan which was in line with the game development of International Hockey Federation (FIH).

“Our hockey academies have become role model in hockey playing countries and we will be introducing the same system in Afghanistan to organise the game on scientific lines,” said the PHF official.

To a query, he said: “The PHF will consider the request of the AHF to send its coaches to Afghanistan for imparting training when such a stage comes in due course of time.”

Bajwa said he was confident that in next five to six years, Afghan hockey would be on right track of progress with the cooperation of the PHF.