ISLAMABAD  - Pakistan national hockey team will play matches against Army, Navy and Pakistan Junior hockey teams to get match practice before leaving for South Korea to defend their Asian Games Hockey title.

Pakistan Hockey team head coach/manager Shahnaz Sheikh while talking with The Nation on Sunday said: “I will meet DG Army and Navy Sports Directorates today (Monday) to ensure the proposed matches given a nod of approval by the respective sports directorates. I will also meet DG Pakistan Sports Board Dr Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera and will request him to ensure proper cleanliness of Naseer Bunda Hockey Stadium as the condition of the ground was not up to the mark when we were training at the venue. But at that time, things were quite different and we had a lot of time to overcome injuries to players. Now we are running fast out of time, now we can't afford even minor injuries to our players.”

Shahnaz said it was quite unfortunate that Spanish visas were not issued to hockey team. “The main reason of shifting the camp to Lahore was to get visas as soon as possible but we were told by the concerned authorities that at least one-month time period is required to go through visa process. The PHF had submitted applications some 15-day back. The boys looked a bit disappointed, as they had not played competitive hockey for the last several months.”

He said we were quite satisfied with the available facilities at the PSB in Islamabad and were just agreed to move the camp to Lahore on condition of same facilities being provided to us in Lahore as the PSB had requested the PHF they need space to accommodate visiting international teams, who are participating in the South Asian Table Tennis Championship but we were not satisfied with the facilities being provided to us in Lahore. “It is very important to kept the same momentum, which we have maintained for the last four months during the long training camp and players are in good shape. We need to carry the momentum and make sure all our hard work doesn't spoil with unwanted breaks. We can't afford to relax now. I have requested the federation to ensure our departure to Korea at least by 10th or 11th of next month. We want to play two matches against hosts Korea and one each against Bangladesh and Japan before going into the event as it would be of great beneficial to players and help them to adjust to the conditions well.”

He said the fourth and last phase of the camp at the PSB will start by 31st of this month and the matches between Army, Navy and junior teams would be held on 3, 4, 5 and 6 of September and after 4 or 5 days practice, hopefully national team would depart to Korea. “I and other coaches have put our best efforts and are quite hopeful the results would come in our favour. We have worked tirelessly and with total dedication. Now it all depends on boys how much they absolve the pressure and perform on ground,” Shahnaz concluded.