No matter what higher officials of Pakistan Hockey Federation and coach of Pakistanâ€™s national hockey team say about the chances of Pakistan in upcoming Beijing Olympics 2008, unfortunately things are not looking too rosy. It has been a long while since we did anything memorable in the Olympics. To be specific, it was Barcelona Olympics 1992 where our national hockey team touched the podium when they got the bronze medal in the event. Los Angeles Olympics 1984 was the last occasion when Pakistan grabbed gold medal for the event.
Since then it is all downhill slide for our hockey. For the first few years, we held Astroturf responsible for our debacle but when all major countries started getting equipped to play on the new surface then our lame excuses looked more lame and tired.
Now hockey is a game of speed and power as it was a test of skill and astuteness in the past. But we cannot get away with our shoddy exhibitions at international level by reiterating this. We need to boost our fitness and stamina to stay abreast with the rest of the world.
World of hockey have been witnessing new power-players on the world stage. Korea and Malaysia were the minnows of the yesteryears but now they are all set to topple even sides like Pakistan and India. Mainly because they understand the requirement of modern hockey then persisting with age-old hockey techniques. Games do evolve over a period of time so is hockey. We need to develop far more energetic athletes to raise the standard of our hockey. Physical fitness becomes the integral part of international sports these days. You can argue that skill level is taking back-seat but you cannot win matches on the basis of this argument. Playing 70 minutes of top-level, high-voltage charged up hockey means lot more today than your expertise with the hockey stick.
Another area of concern for Pakistanâ€™s hockey well-wishers is the dwindling standard of our defense line in past few years. We score goals but do nothing to prevent from happening something similar to our goal post. Recently concluded series of five matches against China and Azlan Shan Hockey Championship exposed all our frailties utterly. Score-line against China was far from desired result where we trounced the neighbors with narrow margin of 3-2 in five match rubber. Biggest flaw that caught everybodyâ€™s attention except our management was our defenders and goal-keepers who conceded too many goals.
Same woeful story was repeated in Azlan Shah Cup. It was the first occasion in Azlan Shah Cup that no major hockey power participated due to the preparations of upcoming Champions Trophy 2008 in Amsterdam. Our national hockey team had to face lesser opponents in the tournament. But after winning its first two matches, Pakistan stumbled against not-so-famous Belgium by five goals. After great start of the tournament it all came to one draw or victory in remaining three matches but we failed to register either of these two options. During the entire tournament, we showed great goal-scoring consistency. Our strikers went on to score remarkable 21 goals but that brilliance was over-shadowed by our miserable defending abilities. Goal-keeper and defenders gave opponents umpteenth chances to penetrate their line of defense. Consequently, Pakistan conceded 18 goals which according to the opinion of experts could have been reduced to 9 or 10 goals at most. With that kind of appalling performances against lesser forces at international level, pompous attitude of our hockey federation regarding the chances of Pakistan in all-important Olympics 2008 looks misplaced.
The photo to the left shows the Gold Medalist Pakistan team after coming back from 1958 Asian Games.
We still have a long way to go before Beijing Olympics. Before that we have whole tour of European countries to boost preparations for the major event of the year. But part of good preparation lies in identification of our debilities. Our management needs to work day in day out with our defending line to get the desired results in the Olympics because at the moment our defense is in tatters.
References: Pakistan Hockey Federation
Photo Credits: Flickr.com and Pakistan Hockey Federation website
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