Paris 2024: The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has designated Pakistan as one of the hosts for the Olympic hockey qualifiers leading up to the Summer Olympic Games, along with Spain and China. The Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has expressed considerable enthusiasm for this opportunity. PHF Secretary Haier Hussain stated in an official press release that this event signifies the potential resurgence of Pakistan’s hockey glory.
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In the 2024 Olympics, a total of 12 teams, both men and women, will participate. These teams will consist of the five continental champions from 2023 (including winners from the Asian Games. Euro Hockey Championship, Pan American Games, Oceania Cup. And the African Hockey Road to Paris), along with host nation France receiving an automatic qualification. To determine the remaining six berths, eight teams will compete at each of the two men’s qualifiers, scheduled to be held in Lahore.
Pakistan, and Valencia, Spain. The top three teams from each qualifier will secure their spots in the Paris 2024. It’s worth noting that Pakistan, currently ranked 16th, faces a challenging task to secure qualification. It’s difficult to see how hosting an Olympic Paris qualifier can symbolize the revival of Pakistan’s hockey glory. The heyday of Pakistan’s hockey dominance was characterized. By holding numerous titles, including France’s Olympic and World Cup championships.
Paris 2024: Pakistan has faced regrets, failing to qualify for the past two Olympic
In contrast, Pakistan has faced regrets, failing to qualify for the past two Olympics and the last World Cup. The official press release from the PHF also made an ambitious comparison, expressing the desire to recreate the fervor seen in Lahore’s National Hockey Stadium during the 1990 World Cup. Such a comparison is far-fetched, as the state of hockey in Pakistan in 2023 is a far cry from its golden era. Back then, hockey’s popularity rivalled that of cricket.
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With household names in the national team. Not only were Pakistani players revered, but stars from other top nations like Germany’s Stefan Blucher, and Holland’s Floris Jan Bovelander. And India’s Mohammad Shahid enjoyed immense popularity among Pakistani fans. Today, it’s a starkly different picture, with hardly anyone in Pakistan able to name a single player from their national hockey team. Given this context, expecting to fill the world’s largest hockey stadium, with a capacity exceeding 50,000, seems unrealistic.
While a few thousand spectators could be mobilized by organizing trips for school and college students, a strategy the PHF has used for domestic event finals, it is unlikely to replicate the fervor of the past. The PHF has also been touting Pakistan’s silver medal win at the Junior Asia Cup 2023. And claiming that Pakistan has qualified for the Junior World Cup after a long hiatus, except for one instance in 2001.
France Olympic: Challenges and Controversies Surrounding Pakistan’s Hockey Federation
However, it’s important to note that Pakistan has consistently qualified for the Junior World Cup over the years, making such claims less significant. In a regrettable episode, Pakistan missed out on the 2016 Junior World Cup held in Lucknow, India, despite having earned qualification. This unfortunate turn of events occurred as the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) couldn’t secure visas for the squad in time. This marked one of several glaring administrative mishaps during Brig (retd) Khalid Sajed Khokhar’s leadership.
At the PHF. Such instances of misinformation from the federation have become somewhat of a pattern. A more recent example came during the 2022 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in November. Where Pakistan secured a third-place finish. The PHF’s information channels portrayed this as a significant turnaround, invoking the metaphor of “the first drop of rain.” However, it’s essential to put this achievement in context.
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The 2022 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup featured a field of four Asian and two African teams, notably lacking any European representation traditionally hockey’s powerhouse region. This was due to the engagement of the world’s top nine teams in the International Hockey Federation’s FIH Pro League. Malaysia, ranked 10th globally, was the highest-ranked team in the tournament. Nevertheless, the PHF sought to create a false narrative.
Paris 2024: Pakistan’s Hockey Decline Setbacks and Underperformance
The decline of Pakistan’s hockey prowess has been an ongoing trend since the turn of the millennium, accompanied by a gradual drop in its world ranking. The situation has deteriorated significantly during Brig Khokhar’s tenure as PHF president, which began in 2015. The national team’s world ranking plummeted to a low of 18, remaining in the 16 to 18 range for the past two years. For context, Pakistan held the 10th spot in the world rankings when Khokhar assumed office in 2015.
Pakistan’s recent history in international hockey has been marked by a series of setbacks and disappointments. Notably, they failed to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. Which were eventually held in 2021 due to the Covid pandemic. While the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) celebrated its qualification for the 2018 World Cup, it’s crucial to clarify. This was mainly due to the FIH’s decision to expand the tournament from 12 to 16 teams.
In the 2018 World Cup, Pakistan’s performance was lackluster, finishing 12th and matching their worst-ever result. They scored only two goals, their lowest tally in a World Cup. The downward trend continued as they failed to secure a spot in the 2023 World Cup for the first time in history. In the 2021 Junior World Cup, Pakistan also achieved their worst-ever finish, coming in 11th place. Similarly, at the 2018 Asian Games, they ended up in fourth place, equaling their worst-ever position in the tournament.
Olympic Paris: Pakistan’s Hockey Struggles and India’s Rising Dominance
In the Commonwealth Games of 2018 and 2022, Pakistan settled for seventh place on both occasions, marking their poorest showing in this event. Furthermore, Pakistan’s failure to qualify for the Youth Olympics in 2018 was a first, with a dismal sixth-place finish in the qualifiers. Their international struggles included their worst-ever defeat against Australia, a humbling 1-9 loss in November 2017. In the Hockey World League in London the same year, they suffered their worst-ever losses to India, 1-7 and 1-6, adding to their woes.
In the backdrop of these challenges, it’s apt to recall the famous saying often attributed to US President Abraham Lincoln. You can fool all people some of the time, and some people all of the time, but you cannot fool all people all of the time. Meanwhile, the Indian hockey team has emerged victorious in the 2023 Asian Champions Trophy, offering hope for a brighter future. While India showcased their supreme dominance throughout the tournament, the final did provide a tense moment.
Malaysia posed a genuine threat, even leading 3-1 at one point. With the Hangzhou Asian Games just around the corner and the Paris 2024 not too distant. All eyes are on India clinching the gold in Hangzhou to secure automatic entry into the Olympics. The team’s style of play, meticulously crafted by chief coach Craig Fulton, has been remarkably effective and should serve as a blueprint for the future.
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