The Pakistan Team's Performance at the GEW Men's Champions Trophy, Cologne 2002
Special report by Sardar Khan
Pakistan hockey team miraculously managed to beat India in a sensational battle by 4-3 after trailing behind 3-1 at one stage. It was a double dose win, a sweet revenge for Pakistan from earlier defeat of 3-2 handed over by India in the league match and decorating themselves with bronze medal during the recently concluded champions trophy held in German city of Cologne that was the 24th edition of the coveted event.
This was the most improved performance from the Pakistan side in any major FIH event since the present set up of the PHF comprising Gen. Mohammad Aziz Khan and Brig. Musarrat Ullah Khan took over. Pakistan had finished 4th in the Sydney Olympics 2000 and now they got promoted to the 3rd slot . Pakistan had also finished 3rd in the Commonwealth Games (CWG) 2002.
India v Pakistan at the Champions Trophy
Pakistan team and officials after the shocking loss of 7-1 to New Zealand in the CWG were under tremendous amount of pressure to do well in the champions trophy. Pakistan appeared to be in good touch when they were leading the reigning world and defending champions Germany by 2-1 in the opening match but later on Germans turned the tables on Pakistan and ended up winning the match 3-2.
Pakistan team however, managed to beat Korea 4-1 and Australia 2-0 while lost a key match to Olympic champions the Netherlands 3-1. A win either against Germany or the Netherlands could have seen Pakistan playing in the final but it was not to be.
The performance of ascending to 3rd slot could certainly be a satisfying element but to be complacent on this would be an unwise thing . One has to be realistic while evaluating things in order to evolve a better and successful strategy in order to raise a good side for the 2004 Olympics.
Pakistan v Australia at the Champion's Trophy
To achieve these objectives one feels that there is a great need to bring many changes in the team after the Asian Games and infuse fresh blood to groom them for major FIH events next year. The present team management comprising of coach Tahir Zaman , manager Zafar Ali Khan and assistant coach Asif Bajwa who were under severe fire after the CWG loss to Kiwis should be commended who still managed to get to the podium almost with a handicapped team.
Given the shorter mandate of three events to at least get to the podium within six months in CWG, CT and later on the Busan Asian Games, one can understand the team management’s reluctance and compulsion that they could not take the risk of replacing at least half of the squad and had to rely on some old customers like Kamran Ashraf, Ahmed Alam, Mohammd Sarwar and Kashif Jawwad who unfortunately could not live up to the expectations, yet the team was lucky to clinch the bronze.
Here one strongly feels that the present team management after getting to the podium in two of the three mandated events, deserves to be given a longer stint with more free hand to try and groom youngsters for the 2004 Olympics. Since Australian hockey team was runner up during the world cup and won the gold at CWG, they were better of to try 8 new players with a view to start the rebuilding process of their squad for the next Olympics that resulted in ending up 5th place for them. Thus Pakistan for the time being will have to opt to raise a good outfit instead of desiring and striving for a short cut to get temporary success.
One should realize and admit that Kamran Ashraf, Sohail Abbass, Kashif Jawwad and Sarwar could not perform up to the mark. Kamran Ashraf well passed his prime could not score a single goal while Kashif Jawwad netted only two goals while Sarwar scored only two, that too on penalty strokes. Given this performance one would be surprised to see them in the Asian Games or post Asian Games scenario.
Sohail Abbass going through bad patch, for the first time since 1998, could not get the tag of the highest scorer for Pakistan. This time it was Mudassair Ali Khan who scored four goals followed by Sohail Abbass with three and Rehan Butt , Kashif Jawwad and Sarwar with two goals each.
Those criticizing Sohail should give him a break as after all, he is a human being and not a computerized scoring machine, yet he proved to be the 2nd highest scorer for Pakistan after Muddassir with three goals. With all due respect, one can not agree with team manager’s Zafri’s reported statement that Sohail Abbass was solely responsible for not making it to the final.. It would be a great injustice if Sohail is singled out as the main culprit. One should take Sohail’s bad patch as blessing in a disguise as it turned out to be in the bronze medal match against India as one saw the possible start of a star in making in Rehan Butt who scored to brilliant goals against India in his first major FIH event. The question arises that what has been the whole team doing when Sohail had been emerging as top scorer for Pakistan for the last four years? Pakistan team should learn to win matches without heavily relying on Sohail’s shoulders and the forward line should play it’s due role and required share in winning matches.
The team management and while thanking God for getting to the podium should sincerely realize and analyze if some selections and decisions, as per general perception, were taken (with or without intent) on personal liking and disliking. One felt that Sarwar, Kamran, Ahmed Alam and Kashif should not have been in the team. Even if Ahmed Alam was recalled from retirement, he should not have been preferred over Qasim as he was declared best goal keeper in champions trophy 2001 and also did well in world cup 2002. It would have been wiser if the team manager while talking about Sohail’s failure, had pointed out that Kamran Ashraf and Kashif Jawwad and Sarwar did not contribute what was expected of them and proved total failure. Some time one has to pay for such injustices and not making it to the final of the champions trophy , one feels was the result of such injustices.
The positive improvement one noticed through the courtesy of team management Zafar Ali Khan, Tahir Zaman and Asif Bajwa was that Pakistan midfield and back defense gave away minimum number of short corners. But other side of the picture had a negative indicator that Pakistan conceded maximum goals in the minimum short corners. The improvement in the half line and deep defense can be judged by the fact that Pakistan conceded 23 short corners in six matches while Indian team conceded 16 short corners against Australia in a single match. The Dutch team got 4 short corners against Pakistan and scored two goals to deprive Pakistan of playing the final while Germany scored once in four and Korea scored one in three short corners. The Indian team scored two goals from four short corners in the 3rd position match.
Another aspect that reflects a negative sign and lack of killer instinct in forward line is that Pakistan could only secure 21 short corners. Pakistan team scored 15 goals while conceded 13 as compared to Dutch team who scored 21 goals and conceded only nine that clearly shows the weaknesses of the forward line and goalkeeping.
One feels and hopes that at last the efforts of the present PHF set up has started paying off and now it should set it’s eyes to raise a good and formidable squad for the 2004 Olympics. The bronze medal in the CT should serve as a confidence and morale booster for Pakistan in the forthcoming Asian Games.
As regards the final between Germany and the Netherlands, one thought that German had scored a goal in golden goal time but it was disallowed. At least this was the impression one got after seeing the TV replay. The German forward had agitated to the umpire’s decision but to no avail. One would have liked to see that replay from a different angle showing a clear picture or version. One feels that while improving the TV coverage, some serious thought needs to be given to the idea of introducing the 3rd or TV umpire to adjudicate on such critical decision.
On a personal note, one would like to thank the FIH media officer DilBahra , German media officer Christoph Plass and all his associates who provided the best possible assistance to the media personals.
Here I would personally like to thank the DW Radio Urdu service section for their warm and kind hospitality, who invited the whole lot of Pakistani journalists to visit the DW Radio in Cologne that was a memorable experience. On behalf of all the Pakistani journalists, I sincerely thank Dr. Fredy Maan Schilindar, head of the Urdu, Hindi and Bengali services, Syed Ejaz Hussain, incharge Urdu service, Mrs. Shahnaz Hussain, Mohammad Shakeel, Mrs. Saira Hasan Shaikh, Amjad Ali, Maqbool Malik, Huma Masroor, Kishwar Mustafa , Asghar Ali and Munaza Siddiqui for their kind, warm and caring gestures.
Well, one can not wind up without mentioning the wonderful lawn side dinner given by old friend, colleague and globally renowned German journalist Hans Peter . Mrs. Hans Peter and their two daughters while inviting the journalist had made special arrangements for Muslim food and one must say that it was delicious. Hans and his family have been frequent visitors to Pakistan and one of his daughter being impressed and influenced by Islamic and Pakistani culture, is now studying Islamic history and was bound to leave for further Islamic studies in Egypt.
One would like to specifically mention a Pakistani based in Cologne Mohammad Qasim who is always on his toes to help and assist the visiting Pakistanis. The Pakistani group of journalists accidentally met Qasim and then it looked like a long term relationship. Qasim a true patriot has a group of staunch supporters around him who are always ready to provide all possible help to Pakistanis. Abu Sufian and Azam Khan were two other friends of Qasim who ensured that our stay in Cologne was most comfortable. On the last day Qasim had a lavish dinner for Pakistani journalists and his kids Imran, Rehan and Roahil were the most glad ones to have us all there. Thanks to Almighty and all those friends who spared their times to share some most memorable moments with all of the journalist group.
Photographs courtesy Ariane Schirle/DHA. Copyright Ariane Schirle/DHA.