Pakistan hockey captain Mohammad Imran
LAHORE: Visibly disturbed by what he terms relentless bashing of the country’s current players by some experts, Pakistan hockey captain Mohammad Imran has endorsed the view of Test cricket skipper Misbah-ul-Haq that if the same trend continues the nation’s youth would lose the inspiration to become sports professionals.

“Misbah is saying it now but I have been shouting about it for several years that if players start appealing to the prime minister and the chief ministers through media for proper patronage, I don’t think we could even inspire our own children to play any game for a secure future,” Imran said when he was asked if he agreed to Misbah’s view that the irritating way some experts were criticising current national players of different games would result in the youth not willing to join any sport.

The Pakistan captain was talking to reporters on the first day of the national training camp that started here at the National Hockey Stadium on Monday for next month’s tour to Australia where the green-shirts will be featuring in a four-nation event.

He said though the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) was facing paucity of funds, still the players had retained the resolve to give their hundred per cent for the national team, an effort which, the captain said, was now getting rhythm.

“The May 2-10 Australia tour could prove exactly the right platform for the players to hone their skills for the upcoming important assignment of the Rio Olympics 2016 qualifiers,” the captain stated.

Pakistan will be playing the Olympic qualifiers in Belgium this July.

Meanwhile, head coach Shahnaz Sheikh said the first stage of the camp was held in Islamabad but it was closed because of the poor condition of the astro turf. Besides, he added, the PHF was facing acute shortage of funds.

“I hope the squad for the Australia tour will be named by April 20,” the coach said.

Asked if the funds shortage was creating a major problem in the team’s preparations, Shahnaz said: “The PHF has not hidden the true picture from the players. And after having understood the genuine problem, all of them have shown the resolve to produce their best performance for the country.”

Claiming there was no issue of money for the players, the coach said they had been making wholehearted efforts on the field in all circumstances just to bring victory for Pakistan.

Shahnaz, meanwhile, appreciated the financial assistance the PHF had received from Punjab government, Omar Associates and Malik Riaz in recent past.

Commenting on the national camp, the head coach said around 32 probables had reported on the first day, adding two players out of the remaining five were on injury list.

The former Olympian said though he was expecting 30 to 35 international matches for the Pakistan players before they competed in the Olympic qualifiers, the team would get around 15 matches, which the coach termed reasonable, if not enough.

“Pakistan missed the Azlan Shah Cup, which ended in Malaysia on Sunday, with New Zealand winning the title [beating Australia in the final],” Shahnaz regretted. “New Zealand won a title after many years but they have been in, consistently featuring in international events.”

Published in Dawn,

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