PAKISTAN WON ALL FOUR CHAMP TITLES ON FOREIGN SOIL BUT ZILCH AT HOME

ANISUDDIN KHAN
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Mar
1 - 7, 2010

Pakistan which introduced the world hockey cup 29 years ago has won all its four titles of the championship on foreign soil but never at home. It won the inaugural edition in Barcelona (Spain) defeating host by slenderest of 1-0 margin. Seven years later it regained the title in Buenos Aires (Argentina) in 1978 defeating Holland 3-2 in the final.

The Green Shirts retained that crown in 1982 in Bombay (India) where they won the final against West Germany 3-1. Its fourth title came in 1994 in Sydney (Australia) where they overpowered Holland 3-1 in the final.

Only once Pakistan has played at home in 1990 at the worlds biggest and exclusive hockey stadium, the National Hockey stadium at Lahore.

The home team had the best chance to win in front of huge crowd of 50,000 cheering Pakistanis. But in the final they fell to Holland by 3-1 margin.

Of the past eleven edition of the championship the worst Pakistan has ever performed at the world event was in 1986 world cup when it took 11th place out of the twelve teams in London. India eight times Olympic champions finished last in the championship held immediately after the Seoul Asian games where South Korea emerged as a hockey power in Asia previously dominated by India and Pakistan.

In the 12th edition of the world cup which pushes off in New Delhi, Pakistan is amongst twelve nations vying for the coveted title which is second only to Olympics.

Host India, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Germany, Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, England, South Africa and Spain are other courtiers in the fray.

Placed in pool B of the fourteen day championship Pakistan will have a tough task in the pool league where it faces arch rival India in opening match on March 28, play Spain on March 2, meet England on March 4, clash with South Africa on March 6 and play its toughest match against Australia on March 8.

Pakistan has to clinch one of the two top positions in the pool to reach the last four. Pakistan which has always reached the final title round directly without playing the qualifying round had the ignominy of playing qualifying round for the 2010 edition of the championship.

At Lille France a few months ago it clinched the top place in the qualifying championship to book a place in New Delhi.

After the introduction of plastic surfaces in hockey in 1976 Montreal Olympics, the balance in international hockey tilted in favour of the more physically stronger European teams.

Pakistan only once won the World Cup on Astro Turf at Sydney in 1994. Pakistan's brilliant striker Shahbaz Ahmed led Pakistani charge in Sydney to carve out a fantastic victory over Holland against the flow of the play.

Shahbaz Ahmed with his brilliant skills and intelligence, set up two goals that turned the tide against the Dutch. However the final was decided on penalty shoot out in which luck favored Pakistan.

In any sporting contest like life luck play crucial role when the teams are balanced and the contest close.

In India, Pakistan would need good amount of luck in first three matches of the pool to ensure they reach the semi finals. If they can clinch a win on March 28 against host India, the tide would flow in favour of Pakistan. But to luck to go in its favour Pakistan needs to play strong hockey in front of a partisan crowd which would certainly go in for their own team.

In the last two contests against India, Pakistan had earned victories. And if that momentum is maintained at the Major Dhayan Chand hockey stadium in New Delhi, Pakistan would at least win the hearts of Pakistanis back at home.

Zeeshan Ashraf will lead Pakistan in Delhi World Cup. Other who will don the Green Shirts are: Nasir Ahmed, Salman Akber, Sohail Abbas, Muhammad Irfan, Waseem Ahmed, Muhammad Imran, Farid Ahmed, Sajjad

Anwar, Rehan Butt, Shakeel Abbasi, Abdul Haseem, Muhammad Zubair, Akhtar Ali, Umar Bhutta, Abbas Haider, Muhammad Rizwan, and Muhammad Rashid.

Shahid Ali Khan is the coach and Asif Bajwa manager of the team which reached Indian capital traveling by road on a special bus of Pakistan Tourism Department. Why Pakistan took time consuming and tiring land route instead of an air route that would have landed them in Indian capital in just 55 minutes is an interesting question. India is hosting the championship second time. Last time they held it in Bombay in 1982 and Pakistan emerged winners there on grass.

From the beginning hosting the world cup was a problem for India. Controversies plagued the Indian team and Indian hockey Federation as 2010 approached. Instead of clearing the mess Indian hockey compounded it.

In the final days of the championship providing security to participating teams became a burning issue. It became severe when a bomb exploded in the south eastern city of Pune just few weeks before the start of the competition.

Finalizing arrangements for the championship become secondary and security became the main concern. Foreign teams started to have doubts about Indians ability to provide security. But with the event just days away, the foreign countries had no choice but to proceed to India with the hope that Indian government would do every thing possible to create a sense of security for the visiting teams.

Pakistan did not give much importance to security and traveled by most insecure mode by road.

All the stake holders in the World Cup are keeping their fingers crossed. The teams have started counting their chances while organizers are sweating extra to keep secure environments for the competition.

The Indian police in order to provide security for Pakistan-India clash have adopted the same old tactics of keeping the fans away from the stadium. An ordinary attendance would be better than an overflowing stadium to ensure security.

Pakistan has successfully used the method when Indian juniors traveled here to play a series of matches against Pakistan a few years ago.

There were hardly few hundred spectators at the Hockey Club of Pakistan when the juniors met here. There was greater presence of security personnel than spectators.

Sport competitions can be compared to a circus where people go to watch thrilling acts performed by skilful and daring individuals to entertain the spectators. Victory and defeat are part of sports contest but when Pakistan meet India it becomes some thing extra ordinary and more about patriotism.

In the six decade long hockey history between two countries, the March 28 would be the biggest battle that the two countries had ever fought after 1960 Rome Olympics of the New Delhi Asian games in 1982 when Pakistan won by whopping 7-1 margin at the same venue.