April issue 2010

By | People | Q & A | Sports | Published 10 years ago

“If we want to excel in sports, we will have to invest in it”
– Qasim Zia
President, Pakistan Hockey Federation

 

When Qasim Zia took over as the president of the Pakistan Hockey Federation in the aftermath of the 2008 Beijing Games debacle, former Olympians had predicted that he would go on to do wonders for the national game.

Less than two years later, many of Qasim’s former colleagues and supporters have turned into his biggest critics and want him to work on a new game plan to save Pakistan hockey from complete destruction.

A former Olympian himself and a gold medalist at the 1982 World Cup, Qasim has come under fire for his all-out support for PHF Secretary Asif Bajwa, who many feel is the main culprit behind Pakistan’s catastrophic last-place finish in the hockey World Cup in New Delhi on March 11.

The same group of former Olympians also credit Qasim for bringing in hundreds of millions of rupees to rejuvenate hockey, which had previously suffered a lot because of a dearth of funds.

Newsline interviewed Qasim, who is also an influential leader of the PPP in Punjab. Excerpts from the interview.

Q: What went wrong with our team in the World Cup?

A: To be honest, I was baffled by the way we flopped in the World Cup. We had prepared a very good team for the World Cup and were hoping to at least finish among the top five or six teams. I don’t know how our team ended up in 12th position. I guess that the boys peaked a bit too early. We played a Test series against Holland just before the World Cup and our boys played really well in it. Perhaps they peaked during that series. I also fear that our players got a bit tired playing in so many events in the lead up to the World Cup. There was also this lack of big game temperament because unfortunately most of our boys have never played against the top teams. We have been confined to playing against lower-ranking teams in the past few years because of our own low ranking.

Q: What can the PHF do to avoid similar embarrassments in the future?

A: Since I’ve taken over as PHF president, we’ve taken every step possible to improve our hockey team. These boys need job security, they need incentives. It is the government which will have to provide opportunities. They will have to pave the path for better results at the international stage by investing in games like hockey.

Q: But we’ve been hearing that the government is pumping a lot of money into hockey?

A: Things are better than in the past. But we still have a long way to go. The total annual budget of the sports ministry till the last year was Rs 340 million. The government has now doubled it. But do you think that amount is enough to run Pakistan sports? I don’t think so. One thing is clear and simple and that is if we want to excel in sports, we will have to invest in it.

Q: Pakistan has to compete in a number of major international events like the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games this year and the Olympic Games in 2012. What steps will the PHF take to ensure that our team does well in them?

A: We have a lot of soul-searching to do. We have to find out the causes behind our World Cup losses. Then we will have to sit down and prepare a solid plan. For starters, we have decided to go for a foreign coach. It’s a really expensive option but the government has promised to pay for the coach. We have sounded out a few coaches in Germany and Australia and I’m hopeful to get the best possible man on board as soon as possible.

This article is part of a larger report of the health of sports in Pakistan: Game Over

The writer is ranked among the battle-hardened journalists covering sports. As sports editor for The News, he covers sporting action extensively in Pakistan and abroad.