Fund crunch hits Pakistan hockey yet again, team mulls withdrawing from Olympic qualifier

Karachi, PakistanUpdated: Jan 08, 2019, 07:31 PM IST
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[File photo] A photo of Pakistan hockey team at the Fan Village in Kalinga Stadium during hockey World Cup. Photograph:(Twitter)

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Pakistan was earlier on the verge of pulling out of the World Cup held in Bhubaneswar in December due to lack of funds but was ultimately saved. 

Financial woes continued to trouble Pakistan hockey with the sport's national body now considering withdrawing from the FIH Pro Hockey League, a qualifying event for the 2020 Olympics. 

The Pakistan team, which almost missed the 2018 hockey World Cup in India last December due to lack of funds, is scheduled to play its first phase matches of Pro Hockey League next month, starting with the game against Argentina in Buenos Aires on February 2. 

The team will have to travel to Australia and New Zealand to play the matches there in the later part of next month. 

For the second leg matches, the Pakistan team will have to travel to Europe. 

An official source told PTI that PHF was seriously considering withdrawing from the Pro-League because of the fund crunch and this could lead to a two-year suspension of Pakistan from international competitions. 

"The PHF has set up a training camp in Lahore for the matches against Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. 45 players have been invited but until now no arrangements have been made to cover the expenses of the tours," the official source said. 

He said at least 25 million rupees will be required to send the team to Buenos Aires and then to Australia and New Zealand for six matches while the entire 16 matches of the Pro League Hockey (by including the Europe leg) would cost around 70 million rupees. 

"The government is not responding to the PHF pleas for funds as was the case when the squad was going to the World Cup in India which was managed through sponsors and some private donations," he said. 

Pakistan was earlier on the verge of pulling out of the World Cup held in Bhubaneswar in December due to lack of funds but was ultimately saved by a Pakistan Super League franchise owner-businessman who signed a sponsorship deal at the last minute. 

A camp attendee in Lahore told PTI that the facilities there were in shambles. He said to cut down costs in the extremely cold weather, the PHF had converted changing halls into rooms and around 12 to 14 players were staying in one hall. 

"It is a sorry situation for hockey and most of the players are now considering just returning to their homes as there appears little chances of them getting any daily allowances as well," he said. 

Shahbaz Ahmed has resigned as PHF Secretary after the World Cup debacle, as did the team's manager and chief coach. But, PHF President Brigadier (retd.) Khalid Khokar has stubbornly refused to resign despite pressure on him to do so. 

"No one knows what Khokar is thinking but apparently he has got a message from the government quarters to resign as they want to appoint a serving top military official as PHF President and bring in a new team to manage hockey affairs," a reliable source said. 

Khokar, in the meantime, has appointed Ayaz Mahmood as a caretaker associate secretary and made a former international Saeed Khan as head coach with Danish Kaleem and Rehan Butt to assist him.