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Even I’d choose cricket in Pakistan, says former Pakistani hockey captain Hasan Sardar

Sardar, part of the Pakistan team that won the 1982 World Cup and 1984 Olympic gold, feels the rise of cricket combined with the “unprofessional” attitude of the national federation (PHF) has led to hockey’s slow demise.

PTI|
Dec 06, 2018, 09.11 AM IST
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Hockey
Once a force in world hockey, Pakistan is struggling for survival now and former captain Hasan Sardar, who lead them to an Olympic gold, says even he would have been driven to play cricket given the current state of the sport in the country.

Sardar, part of the Pakistan team that won the 1982 World Cup and 1984 Olympic gold, feels the rise of cricket combined with the “unprofessional” attitude of the national federation (PHF) has led to hockey’s slow demise.

“There is no hockey culture in the country (Pakistan) now,” he says. “People are into cricket more; people follow cricket more. I think that if I was a kid now with talent in hockey, I would prefer playing cricket than hockey. People are charmed by cricket,” Sardar said in an interview.

A lethal centre-forward of his generation, Sardar, who’s in India as the manager of the team participating in the World Cup, said Pakistan hockey has failed to produce talent that can influence youngsters to the sport. He added: “Now kids want to become a hero and they want role models. Hockey doesn’t have any such heroes at the moment till we start winning.”

Pakistan, ranked 13th in the world, has a rich history in hockey having won three Olympic gold medals and a record four World Cup titles. But the team has been in poor form for over a decade now.

The blame is solely the national federation’s, says the former captain.

“Our federation is facing plenty of problems,” he says. “If the federation is in trouble, then the players and coaches all will suffer. We also lost coach Roelant (Oltmans) because of this reason.”

He added: “We need to work on grassroots (programmes) and give importance to (the sport) at the school and college levels. There is no grassroots hockey in Pakistan. There are a handful of academies and no domestic hockey is happening except for the National Championship. The fault lies with the federation.”

Pakistan’s participation at the World Cup was in doubt over lack of funds and only a last-minute intervention by a sponsor made the trip possible. The company stepped in to cover the team’s expenses at the World Cup.

Sardar also knows that Pakistan hockey’s rise is proportionate to its performance and exposure against top teams of the world. He thinks a revival of India-Pakistan rivalry can benefit both countries.

“The biggest disadvantage for us is that we can’t play international matches at home in front of home fans,” he says. “But there are places like Muscat where plenty of Pakistanis live and can travel to easily. So, we need to play more and more matches there.

“If our performance becomes better, people will come to watch us anywhere in the world.

We don’t have a problem in playing at neutral venues. We are ready to play in India and if India doesn’t want to travel to Pakistan we can play at a neutral venue.”

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