BETTER DOMESTIC STRUCTURE ONLY CAN REVIVE NATIONAL HOCKEY
An exclusive interview with hockey star & team manager Hanif Khan
In his exclusive interview with daily ‘National Courier’ Hanif Khan stressed that FIH and PHF should attempt to convince the world hockey teams to visit Pakistan, we will provide them full security. Without playing against international teams our hockey talent could not be groomed. It will raise our exposure and experience. On the other hand, our team should have maximum number of international tours just like in the past. He also urged that domestic hockey structure should be strengthened by promoting it at grassroots level. This three point agenda must be followed by our hockey administration if we want to survive in hockey, the Manager of Pakistan Hockey Team said. Replying to various questions about decline of national hockey; Hanif Khan said the structure of Pakistani hockey is destroyed since last 30 years. The responsibility of its decline is equally shared by Pakistan Hockey Federation and our Olympians. PHF’s biggest mistake was that it destroyed domestic hockey structure. In our times there were teams from Sheikhupura, Lahore, Quetta, Gojra, Peshawar, Bannu, Faisalabad, Karachi, Hyderabad, Larkana, and Sukkur etc. participating in various local tournaments. But now this system has been abandoned. When your domestic tournaments structure is not working how could you get a good talent of hockey? This is impossible. When you have abandoned hockey in schools, colleges and clubs how could you promote national hockey? This was the responsibility of PHF who has failed. If PHF had forced Karachi Hockey Association to run tournaments of under 16, Under 18 and under 20 youth there would have been enormous talent in our hockey. But nobody bothered about it. The city associations were involved in minting money and converted the hockey grounds into marriage lawns for making money.
They did not invest in the game of hockey. This attitude destroyed our hockey and closed the doors on young blood and new talent. On the other hand, our international Olympians who were known only for their hockey skills; did not play their due role to come to grounds and transfer their skills to young learners. Being Hanif Khan I am recognised and respected by masses just with reference to my hockey achievements, otherwise there may be hundreds of Hanif Khans in the world but nobody knows them. If I don’t come to ground and teach the boys to play hockey, it would be sheer injustice and unpatriotic on my behalf. But sadly our world famed Olympians are fond of just sitting on TV channels pointing fingers, become selectors or hold the posts as office-bearers in hockey federation but they don’t like to come to playground and teach hockey to young children. This is the main cause of destruction of hockey as national game. To another question Hanif said they may be asked why they are reluctant to transfer hockey skills to future generations. “In my opinion this is selfishness and dishonesty. They earned fame, respect and heavy sums just because of Pakistan hockey but now they don’t want to return the same to nation. Instead, they are involved in useless comments and mudslinging through different channels and newspapers but don’t recognize the responsibility,” Khan added. The national hero further stated, “I have been attached with PHF in different positions and tried to convince the management and former secretary Bajwa to hold tournaments. I made it clear that opening of hockey academies was a useless exercise and waste of money, it would serve no purpose, but just obliging the chosen people paying handsome amounts from the funds. So the result was there. Did you see any talent exposed by these academies?” However, he disclosed that the present office-bearers of PHF having Brig. (R) Khokhar as President and Shahbaz as Secretary have made the difference. They are benefitted from under 15, under 16 under 18, under 20 and senior championships in Karachi and in Punjab domestic hockey. It has brought new talent in the national hockey. Being the Team Manager I am satisfied that in recent tour to Australia and New Zealand there were seven new players in Pakistan side who had not played even a single international match but they performed brilliantly. New Zealand is on 5th position and Pakistan on 13th position but we defeated them. Against Australia our boys fought very well and were defeated by narrow margin. Our team’s average per player international match experience was just 12 matches while the opponents’ players were having 250 to 300 matches experience. We returned yesterday from the above tour, he informed. According to Hanif Khan in present circumstances no country invites us to play against them. Recently we requested all the top European teams to play matches but they refused except Spain and France. In Malaysia we were sacked from Azlan Shah Tournament due to the politics played by Indian officials sitting there while the most pitiful role was played by a Pakistani official Tayyeb Ikram in FIH. He is representing Asian Hockey Federation but working with anti-Pakistan lobby in Malaysia. He was sent by Pakistan as a coach for Macao team but failed to groom it, and now in International Hockey Federation he is working against the national interest of Pakistan. To a question about current affairs he said; under my manager-ship this team has played Asian Championship, got second position, and the series of New Zealand and Australia. Now we are getting prepared to have a tour of Europe at the end of this month before contesting for World Cup Hockey. Spain and France have already confirmed to play practice matches while we are also trying to visit Germany or Holland. World Cup is due to be held in June 15 to 30 in England. This is qualifying round while the final World Cup would be held in India. There are eight teams participating in England including Holland, India, Argentina, Malaysia, Pakistan and others. If we win even a single match we will reach quarter final and qualified for World Cup. I am confident In Sha Allah Pakistan will qualify for World Cup, the players of this team are performing very well. They have got experience of playing against number one team of the world class, now they need some more experience. Replying to another question Hanif Khan said; my favorite and original position in Pakistan team was left-in, however initial two years were as center-forward. I have played about 150 international matches. I am the first hockey player of Pakistan who has maximum number of medals. I am only player in the world who scored a goal in just eight seconds after start of the match. It was against Holland in Karachi match of Champions Trophy. Praising the era of Air Marshal Nur Khan he said Nur Khan was the only President of PHF who promoted hockey not only in Pakistan but the world over. I have not seen the man of his caliber in my life. Nur Khan was a flawless leader, he was the man who had arranged chartered plane for hockey team on various occasion. For example we returned from Argentina in a chartered plane, similarly we visited Saudi Arabia in a chartered plane. There was no scarcity of funds in his times. He provided all the facilities we needed in his times. Nur Khan was handed the reins of Pakistan Hockey Federation as its president in 1976 and was President of the Pakistan Hockey Federation during 1967 – 1969, and 1976 – 1984. During his Presidency, The Pakistan Hockey Federation won 2 Olympic Gold Medals (1968 Mexico & 1984 Los Angeles), 2 Hockey World Cups (1978 & 1982) and 2 Hockey Champions Trophy (1978 & 1980. Being a sports enthusiast, he not only ably facilitated the game at home for eight years. But also played an iconic role in international hockey arena. Conception of Champions Trophy, an annual hockey tournament, was his brain child that was realized in 1978 by his endeavors. However, I hope the incumbent President Brig (R) Khokhar can fulfil the gap as good administrator. He has been a hockey player, attended various camps and he knows all the facts. He is efficiently generating funds for hockey even sometime spends from own pocket. We need such a devoted person in these circumstances. To a question about historic match Hanif said; my memorable historic match was the final on December 1, 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi against India that we won by 7-1. A day before the match Indian coach told his Prime Minister Indira Gandhi that the Gold Medal is in our pocket, she should come to award us. On this occasion full Indian cabinet was to witness the final in stadium including Rajiv Gandhi, Amitabh Bachchan and others who were distributing and waving Indian flags among the people on the gates.
Hanif Khan is a shining star on the horizon of Pakistan hockey. An aggressive forward, he was most feared by the defenders. His speed, aggression and versatility made him stand out and he was often referred to as the “Goal Scoring Machine”. This dashing forward learned to play hockey on the streets of his hometown, Karachi. He was a member of the national squad which won the 1984 Olympics Gold Medal. He is among one of the most important names in Pakistan hockey history. In recent years, Pakistan hockey team’s performance at international level competitions has been mediocre. Hanif Khan was one of the hockey players who used to ensure in their time that Pakistan hockey team does not lose in any competition. It was more to their passion for the game of field hockey which led the Pakistan hockey team to major victories in World Cup hockey tournaments, Champions Trophy and in the race of Olympic Gold medal. Hanif Khan has been associated with Pakistan hockey in one way or the other all his life. After retirement he was appointed as coach of the national side. At present he is the Manager of Pakistan squad that last month toured Malaysia, New Zealand and Australia, and is getting prepared to participate in World Cup qualifying rounds to be held in England.
Interview by: Nasir Mahmood and Syed M Osama Photos by: Sultan Soomro