ISLAMABAD    -    Pakistan Hockey Federation President Brig (R) Khalid Sajjad Khohkar had recommended 30-member Pakistan Development squad under the coaching of Navy coach Javaid and former international hockey player from Toba Tek Singh Imran to play two matches against the visiting Uzbekistan National Hockey team from 29th of this month at National Hockey Stadium, Lahore.

While talking exclusively to The Nation, Pakistan Hockey Federation Secretary Olympian Shahbaz Senior confirmed that the Uzbek team will arrive tomorrow (Saturday) at 12:00pm at Lahore. “They will play first match against Pakistan development squad on 29th and then on 30th of this month. They will also play matches against Gojra, Punjab, Okara Cantt and other Pakistani teams as well. We will arrange two floodlight matches while the last match will be held on May 9 before the visiting team will depart.”

“I am highly confident that our youngsters will do very well against the touring team. It would be a great learning experience for our juniors and they will get more chances to not only play against top sides in Pakistan but also we will ensure international tours for the development squads. I think it is best answer to all those critics, who had no agenda, no planning and no policy to follow. They don’t want hockey to flourish in Pakistan and just want negativity. Their aim is just personal ego and personal ambitions. If they are such brains, why they were failures in different roles assigned to them. I can challenge, if today, Brig Khokhar offer them some kind of role in the federation, they will give us clean chit and we would be neat and clean persons again.”

He said the Federation under the dynamic leadership of highly respectable Brig Khokhar is striving day and night to provide matches, jobs and ensure our youth remain involve in fast dying national game hockey.

Shahbaz said prior to their takeover of the federation, there were not even handful of players available and they have enlarged the pool of players and introduced development squad besides youth, junior and senior hockey.

The PHF secretary said despite highly limited resources as government and the PSB had not given any financial grant for last year or so to the PHF, they were striving hard for the survival of the game.

“Only Sindh CM Murad Ali shah is helping the PHF in the best possible fashion and if Brig Khokhar was not taking so much pain to arrange funds, the hockey would have been dead and buried in Pakistan long ago.”

“People are free to criticise if we are sleeping and making no efforts. But credit must be given where it belongs. It is by no means an easy task to revive the fortunes of hockey and the critics have failed to prove a single wrong-doing against the elected federation. It is an ample proof, that we are taking things very seriously and we know the direction and above all vision, which is required at this level.”

“People must not take Uzbekistan team lightly. They are fast growing in hockey world and they had a very competitive squad, while we want to provide our youngsters chances as they are the future of Pakistan hockey. We will revive hockey at grassroots level and ensure that schools, colleges and universities must have their hockey teams. We will revive inter-school hockey and introduce cricket-like model at very young age. Let me assure all that we are proven stuff. I had played hockey my entire life. Brig Khokhar had vast experience of travelling with the national hockey team in different capacities. I request Prime Minister Imran Khan to spare some time form his busy schedule and visit hockey team and invite federation for a much anticipated meeting. It will not only help hockey but also give clear picture to the PM about what are our future plans and on what lines we are working.”

He said until and unless all join hands and shun personal egos, hockey won’t rise and requested to genuine and real hockey lovers, promoters and former players, who are sincere with national game to come forward, bring suggestions, recommendations. “It is my promise we will fully implement them. But let me make it very clear. We are not going to be blackmailed. We are here with mandate to work for hockey and we will deliver. If we fail to fulfil our promises, we won’t waste a single second and resign,” Shahbaz concluded.