Pakistan hockey eyeing a podium finish in London OlympicsBy Omar Khalid, IANS
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
KARACHI - Buoyed by the Asian Games hockey gold medal, Pakistan are now eyeing a podium finish at the 2012 London Olympics.
The three-time Olympic champions have failed to win the gold since their memorable triumph in the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Their last medal was the bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Games and they finished fourth in 2000 Sydney after losing 3-6 to Australia in the play-off for the third place.
In London, it would need a great effort from the Greenshirts to finish on the podium as they are way behind powerhouses like Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.
But the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) hopes that the Asian Games gold will boost the team’s confidence.
“Pakistan hockey has been struggling for almost twenty years but we believe that it’s time for things to change,” said Asif Bajwa, PHF secretary.
“We have put ourselves on the road to revival by winning the Asian Games title and are now setting our sights on doing well in the 2012 Olympics and the World Cup to be played in 2014,” added Bajwa, an Olympian.
Bajwa said PHF has lined up 40-50 international matches against top teams in the run up to the Olympics. It includes a tour of Egypt, a hectic sojourn of Europe, the Champions Trophy and a trip to Australia followed by a lengthy tour of England in early 2012.
“We’ll start our preparations with the trip to Egypt,” said Bajwa. “It will be followed by hectic assignments both at home and abroad which we believe will help us in raising a balanced team for the Olympics,” he added.
Bajwa said that Pakistan want to have a pool of 25 world-class players by the end of this year.
“We want to have 25 top players so that we can pick a solid Olympic team from that pool.”
But PHF’s plans can face a few hurdles.
Michel van den Heuvel, Pakistan’s Dutch coach, is doubtful to finish his stint with the national team because of security concerns. He was in charge of Pakistan’s successful campaign in Guangzhou Asian Games after which the PHF decided to retain him till the London Olympics.
There have been reports that the Dutchman is concerned about his safety in Pakistan and might not complete his tenure.
Bajwa is confident that Van den Heuvel will carry on as the national coach.
“Our coach has a few concerns but the PHF will address them which is why I’m hopeful that he will supervise our Olympic preparations.”