Players gear up for Olympic qualifiers as selectors name squadArchive
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan hockey selectors on Thursday named an 18-member national squad for Olympic Games 2016 qualifying round, to be held in Antwerp, Belgium from June 20.
However, surprisingly, centre-forward Arslan Qadir who had played instrumental role in the Champions Trophy semi-final against India, could not get the selectors’ nod while newcomers Asfar Yaqoob and Fareed Ahmed managed to make the national team.
The trials to select the final team for participation in the Hockey World League semis at Antwerp from June 20 to July 5 were held here at Naseer Bunda Hockey Stadium. The trials were observed by two-member selection committee comprising Islahuddin Siddiqui and Musaddiq Hussain.
“We have selected the team purely on merit and I hope this team will produce good results in the qualifying round,” said Islahuddin.
Two senior players, Mohammad Rizwan (senior) and Rashad Mahmood, will not be available for the country in the upcoming mega event that will decide Pakistan’s fate about its participation in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Both Rizwan and Rashad will be absent due to their prior engagements in league matches at Doha.
Addressing a press conference, chief selector Olympian Islahuddin Sidiqui said that the selection committee picked the best available team from the available lot. He said that national team is going to play against the best teams of the world, which could give it tough time. “You (team) have to take every match very seriously, each game should be treated as the final,” he said.
To a query, the former Olympian said: “Honestly speaking we (team) will face tough competitions.”
He was optimistic that team will show good performance and will qualify for Olympic Games.
Later, speaking to Dawn, he said that Mohammad Imran, Mohammad Irfan, Shafqat Rasool and a few others are seasoned players and have the ability to match the best in business. “I hope they will be playing a leading role in the event,” he said.
The national team will leave for Belgium on Saturday night after the Pakistan Sports Board on Friday released a sum of around Rs110 million for the PHF for this tournament.
However, the PSB could not fulfil its promise of releasing the grant for the national team for clinching silver medal in the Asian Games and the Champions Trophy.
It is relevant to note here that according to the PHF schedule, the team should have been in Belgium on June 10 for playing five matches against the US and other teams. However, due to the funding issue, the team could not leave on time for the qualifiers.
“I agree, we are a little late, we should have been there for playing maximum matches before the commencement of the mega event,” the chief selector said and added that now Pakistan will play two practice matches.
Meanwhile, while speaking to Dawn, head coach Shahnaz Sheikh said he is satisfied with the selection of team.
“The team was selected on merit. I hope we bring laurels for the country,” he said.
Talking about Arslan Yousuf’s poor show in Australia and Korea which led to his ouster, Shahnaz said: “Yes, he was dropped on my recommendations because his performance has been below par of late.”
Mohammad Imran (captain), Imran Butt, Mazhar Abbas, Mohammad Irfan, Syed Kashif Shah, Fareed Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan Junior, Mohammad Toseeq Arshad, Rashad Mahmood, Ammad Shakeel Butt, Mohammad Waqas Sharif, Shafqat Rasool, Mohammad Umar Bhutta, Mohammad Kashif Ali, Mohammad Dilber, Mohammad Rizwan Senior, Ali Shan, Mohammad Azfar Yaqoob.
Officials: Shahnaz Sheikh (manager cum head coach), Danish Kaleem, Syed Abu Zar Umrao and team doctor Dr. Asad Abbas Shah.
Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2015
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