Pakistan’s Olympic hockey participation uncertain after FIH drops it from pre-qualifying tournament

Karachi: The Pakistan hockey team‘s chances of playing in next year’s Olympic Games appeared to have ended after the International Hockey Federation (FIH) did not include it in the pre-qualifying tournament scheduled for next month. The new secretary-general of Pakistan Hockey Federation, Asif Bajwa, said that the development was a big setback for Pakistan. “The FIH has taken this decision since we did not send our team for the FIH Pro-Hockey League in February-April,” he said.

Bajwa, who has taken over from legendary player Shahbaz Ahmed, said he would write to the FIH to reconsider its decision and make a spot for Pakistan to at least try to qualify for the Olympics. “I will also be meeting with important government officials soon to discuss the future of hockey in Pakistan and the funding issue.” The FIH has already fined PHF around 170,000 Euros for not sending the team to the Pro-Hockey League in Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, which, it says, damaged the sport’s growth globally. Shortage of funds had led to the PHF not sending its team for the Olympics qualifying process.

Hockey, which is the designated national sport in Pakistan, has suffered a steep downfall in recent years due to administrative mismanagement, wrong selection policies and failure by the PHF to get sponsorship and funds. A sport in which Pakistan was one of the best on the basis of winning several world, Olympic and Asian Games titles is today in dire straits and Bajwa said that there was just 7 lakh and 65,000 rupees in PHF accounts. In the ongoing inaugural FIH Pro-League which began in January, nine teams are competing in a round-robin tournament with home and away matches till June. The top four teams will earn a ticket to the FIH’s Olympic Qualification events.

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