Field hockey enthusiasts are aware that Pakistan has a long history of success in the sport, but during the last ten or so years, conditions have gotten worse. The concerning part is that nothing is being done to stop the descent from what began as a slow decline that has now become a freefall.
Similar events occurred recently in Muscat, Oman, during the Paris Olympics Qualifiers, where Pakistan finished fourth and missed out on qualifying for the esteemed competition.
The Pakistani hockey team will miss the Olympics for the third consecutive year as a result of this latest failure; they also failed to qualify in 2016 and 2020.
In 2014, Pakistan experienced the dishonor of missing a World Cup for the first time ever. They were not selected for the major tournament the previous year either.
In addition to winning the World Cup four times, which is the most for any one team in the history of the competition, Pakistan has eight medals from the Olympics, including three gold ones.
But hockey in Pakistan has not been great during the past ten years.
Pakistan at mega event in last 10 years
|2014 World Cup
|2018 World Cup
|Finished in 12th place
|2023 World Cup
Despite being Pakistan’s national sport, hockey’s dismal record on the international scene during the previous ten years has also drastically decreased interest in the sport there.
Numerous factors have contributed to Pakistani hockey’s decline in quality. The sport is in utter disarray, from political appointments in the Pakistan Hockey Federation and a lack of funding to a failure to adapt to modern hockey and instability in coaching and selection.
In addition, participants have consistently received late payments over the years. The present team has been playing without compensation for the last six months, therefore they are also suffering from the same problem.
“People want us to win, but they don’t understand the struggles that players face every day. We are devastated, but I will never cry in front of everyone and discuss the injustice done to hockey players in Pakistan,” declared Pakistani captain Ammad Butt.
“I want to let you know that for the past six months, the lads have not received payment. The boys are giving Pakistan their all, including their blood and sweat, yet the way we are treated is completely unfair.”
There have also been numerous prior reports of financial misappropriation against PHF, but despite the government’s repeated requests for an audit, no real action has been taken to hold people responsible.
In addition, sponsors are hesitant to join because of PHF’s bad reputation and the lack of effective marketing to increase revenue streams.
Instead than depending entirely on government financing, as the PHF does, other federations across the world make money by hosting competitions and other events.
Players have been pushed by the appalling circumstances to turn to alternative sources of income, like as driving for ride-hailing services, and some have even left Pakistan hockey to play in leagues outside.
Furthermore, Pakistan’s lack of participation in the FIH Pro League implies that the country does not play enough games against elite teams worldwide.
Pakistan was eliminated from the 2019 FIH Pro League as they were unable to field a team because of financial difficulties.
Pakistan is still without a single participation in the ongoing fifth edition of the FIH Pro League.
In the meanwhile, a shortage of funding prevents tours to European nations, depriving players of crucial experience.
In contrast to the world’s best hockey nations, Pakistan lacks a legitimate hockey league that lasts six to eight months a year and allows players to improve their game and maintain competitiveness.
However, there is still potential, particularly if the Pakistan Hockey Federation organizes itself and starts making long-term plans to improve the sport.
Belgium is a good example to use if the PHF is looking for inspiration in this area.
In addition to not competing in any Olympics between 1980 and 2004, Belgium missed out on qualifying for three of the four world cups that took place between 1998 and 2010.
To create the groundwork for their resurgence, the Royal Belgian Hockey Association (RBHA) tightened its grip in the early 2000s and launched initiatives for club, grassroots, and high-performance hockey.
The ‘BE-GOLD’ project assisted U21 players in improving their technical, tactical, mental, physical, and emotional game while also placing a sufficient emphasis on their academics.
After a few years, Belgium hockey began to see the expected results at the international level with focus and dedication.
They took home a silver medal from the 2016 Olympics and a gold medal from the 2018 World Cup. They won gold in the Olympics in 2020 and silver in the World Cup in 2023. Belgium, meanwhile, finished as runners-up twice and as winners of the FIH Pro League between 2019 and 2023.
Pakistan must emulate successful hockey-playing countries like Belgium if it hopes to reclaim its former standing.
Even if Pakistani hockey is currently at an all-time low, there is comfort to be found in the adage that “the only way up is down.”