ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) secretary Olympian Shahbaz Senior has requested Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) to send 25-meber Pakistan hockey contingent at least a week earlier, as they have golden chance of finishing on the podium.

Shahbaz Senior was present at Pakistan Sports Complex along with director media Raja Mohsin Ijaz to meet with DDG Technical and Training M Azam Dar, who is also director national federations. They requested him to ensure Pakistani contingent reach Jakarta, Indonesia for Asian Games by 10th of next month. “The boys were trained well at the camp established in Karachi and head coach Roelant Oltmans is very much optimistic about green shirts’ chances in the Asian Games hockey. We have set Asian Games as our target and despite lack of funds to pay even dailies of the players, the moral in the camp is high and each and every player wants to play out his heart to ensure the team finish on podium.”

Azam Dar agreed to forward Shahbaz’ request with a condition that the PHF has to pay the expenditures and when the PSB receives its grant, it will clear the federation’s dues. Shahbaz informed Azam that the federation’s accounts are almost empty, they are running from post to pillar to meet their daily expenditures and are unable to pay dailies to players and team management, so they are unable to afford such heavy amount of sending the team earlier to Jakarta.

Shahbaz, while talking to The Nation, congratulated Imran Khan and his party PTI on winning the 2018 general elections and then requested would-be Prime Minister Imran Khan to ponder over federation’s request, as he is also a sportsman and he can better understand problems of athletes. “I request Imran Khan to release funds for the federation. We are not demanding a single penny for personal benefits, as we have realistic chances of winning medal in Asian Games hockey. We want to send 18 players and 7 officials at least a week earlier to Jakarta to get used to the climate and to play few practice matches against different teams and clubs, as it will boost their winning chances.”

The former Olympian said: “We are using all our energies to ensure merit, provide top class facilities, international exposure, top class national and international coaches and round-the-year training to the players, so that they may earn medals for the country at international level.

“When we took over, we hardly had 30 plus players, with no junior and youth concept existing in the federation. But with day and night hard work, we managed to not only enhance the pool of players to well over 200, but also created youth and junior team and send them abroad for international experience. Those, who are pointing fingers on development squads’ visit to Canada, don’t know ABC of hockey and also unaware of the importance of investing on youth. They just want to criticise the federation, nothing else.

“Cricket has overwhelmingly eaten all the sports in Pakistan and hockey is worst affected. In the past, youth wanted to follow the footsteps of former greats and used to love to play hockey, but now not a single former greats family wants to play hockey and represent the country at international level. A few player joined hockey just to secure their jobs. It is alarming situation, but no one in the past paid heed to this issue of grave importance. We have made different plans and time is coming when we will reap the benefits,” he added.  The PHF secretary said that he is ready to step down, if someone comes up with solid plans and guarantee that after his resign, Pakistan hockey will start flourishing rapidly. “We need time to flourish the national game, and I promise to nation that soon we will start getting better results. Hockey is in my blood and it hurts me more than anyone else, when I see Pakistan is nowhere in hockey world, which we once ruled. I appeal to Imran Khan to release funds for the PHF and ensure the team leave early to brighten their chances of winning Asian Games hockey medal,” Shahbaz concluded.