LAHORE- Pakistan start their genuine medal quest to appear on the medals table today (Saturday) when hockey team kicks off their Olympics campaign against Spain on the new-look blue turf today.

Three times Olympic champions and four times world champions Pakistan have slumped at international level after poor planning and with talent becoming increasingly scarce. They finished at their worst-ever eighth position in the last Olympics in Beijing four years ago, and then slumped to the 12th and last position in the 2010 World Cup in India.

The Pakistanis continued their indifferent form in the warm-up games for the Olympic preparations when they lost 5-1 to Netherlands and 2-0 to Belgium. To make matters worse, Pakistan were sweating on the fitness of one of their ‘key’ player – Muhammad Irfan – who has sustained an ankle injury in the practice game against the Netherlands.

The twin losses and Irfan’s injury have raised fears that Pakistan might not be ready for the Olympic challenge where they would be battling against top teams like world numbers ones Australia, hosts Great Britain and Spain for a place in the semi-finals.

The team did win the Asian title in China in late 2010 to secure direct qualification for the London Games and give a boost to their confidence. The Green shirts have a great history laced with flair and flamboyance. Pakistan have not stepped on the podium for quite some time and they would try to rectify it this year. Pakistan are in Group A along with Australia, Great Britain, Spain, Argentina and South Africa. Defending champions Germany are in Group B, which also includes Netherlands, South Korea, New Zealand, India and Belgium

The 35-year-old sharp shooter Sohail Abbas has been retained the captain of the Pakistan’s hockey squad despite their poor last place finish at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup held in May this year in Ipoh, Malaysia. Pakistan’s recent poor performance in Malaysia forced the selectors to recall senior players Rehan Butt, Mohammad Waseem and Shakil Abbasi who featured in a rebel hockey league in India which threatened their places for the Olympics.

Since their first-ever participation in the London Olympics in 1948, Pakistan have succeeded in winning just 10 medals in 64 years including three golds which came from hockey. Pakistan appeared on the medal list first in 1956 when, when hockey team managed a silver at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Pakistan went on to win its first-ever gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics by trampling all over their arch-rivals India under captain Abdul Hameed ‘Hameedi. At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Pakistan had to settle for the second place.

At the 1968 Mexico Olympics, Pakistan edged out Australia by 2-1 to win a gold medal. Asad Malik and Abdul Rasheed scored the two goals, helping the Pakistanis hold their heads high in pride under captain Tariq Aziz. At the 1972 Munich Olympics, Pakistan hockey stars were defeated by hosts West Germany by a lone-goal margin in the final. As poor and biased umpiring visibly cost Pakistan the match, all the 11 players in the final were suspended for a disorderly behaviour during the medal ceremony. At the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Pakistan were restricted to a bronze medal. The Green-shirts then won their last gold in hockey at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics by defeating Germany in the final. At the 1988 Seoul games hockey team failed to win any medal but boxer Syed Hussain Shah bagged a bronze medal.  At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Pakistani hockey team clinched a bronze medal, courtesy Shahbaz Ahmed Senior, who was nicknamed ‘The man with the electric heels.’ And since then Pakistan is still looking for a medal till now. The downfall in the game of hockey has cost Pakistan dearly as the green shirts failed to earn a single medal in last 20 years. So it’s the first and crucial match for Pakistan today against Spain, which will determine that whether it’s indifferent players will join the legends or follow the misery of last 20 years.

Pakistan Hockey in Olympics

1948    London Olympics    4th

1952    Helsinky Olympics    4th

1956    Melbourne Olympics    Silver

1960    Rome Olympics    Gold

1964    Tokyo Olympics    Silver

1968    Mexico Olympics    Gold

1972    Munich Olympics    Silver

1976    Montreal Olympics    Bronze

1984    Los Angles Olympics    Gold

1988    Seoul Olympics    5th

1992     Barcelona Olympics    Bronze

1996    Atlanta Olympics    6TH

2000    Sydney Olympics    4TH

2004    Athens Olympics    5TH

2008    Beijing Olympics    8th

Pakistan Hockey in all competitions

Competition    Gold    Silver    Bronze    Total

Olympic    3    3    2    8

World Cup    4    2    0    6

Champions Trophy    3    6    6    15

Asian Games    8    2    3    13

Asia Cup    3    3    1    7

Azlan Shah Hockey Cup    3    6    2    11

Commonwealth Games    0    1    1    2