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The Gradual Decay of Hockey in Pakistan: A Tragic Tale of Corruption, Neglect, and Mismanagement

Hockey has always been an integral part of Pakistan’s sports culture. The country dominated the international scene for decades, winning four World Cup titles and three Olympic medals. However, in recent years, the sport has witnessed a sharp decline, with the national team failing to qualify for major tournaments and falling to the 17th in the world rankings. The reasons for this downfall are complicated, ranging from corruption and nepotism to neglect and mismanagement.

In this article, we will explore the history of hockey in Pakistan, the reasons for its decline, and what can be done to revive the sport.

The Kings of Grass 

Pakistan’s love affair with hockey dates back to the pre-partition era when British colonial officers introduced the sport. After independence, hockey became a symbol of national pride, and the country quickly emerged as a dominant force in the international scene. From the 1960s to the early 1990s, Pakistan won four World Cup titles and three Olympic medals, becoming one of history’s most successful hockey-playing nations. The team’s success was attributed to its fast-paced, attacking style of play and its talented players who combined skill, speed, and tactical awareness.

The Downfall of Pakistani Hockey

However, in the last two decades, the fortunes of Pakistani hockey have taken a sharp turn for the worse. The team still needs to qualify for major tournaments, including back-to-back Olympic Games, and currently sits in 17th place in the world rankings. There are several reasons for this decline, ranging from corruption and nepotism to neglect and mismanagement.

One of the primary reasons for the downfall of Pakistani hockey has been the need for more funding and support for the sport. More than salaries and disbursements are needed for players to make a living, especially during high inflation and economic turmoil. Many have even reported that they have had to spend their own money on travel arrangements to play in international tournaments. This has led to a situation where talented players need help to pursue the sport professionally, leading to a decline in the overall level of competition.

Another factor that has contributed to the downfall of Pakistani hockey has been the failure of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) to adapt to modern hockey. Labeled ‘Kings of Grass’, Pakistani hockey players underwent a decline in their performance with the introduction of artificial turfs. Unlike in India, Pakistani officials did not have enough foresight to adapt to the new playing surface, leading to a decline in the quality of play.

The Way Forward

Despite Pakistan hockey’s challenges, there is still hope for the sport. Pakistan has a rich pool of talented players; all that is needed is the right infrastructure and support to cultivate their skills. To revive the sport, there needs to be a concerted effort to root out corruption and nepotism within the PHF and to replace serving officials with sincere professionals who can build Pakistan hockey from the ground up. More than anything, serious investment and attention are needed at the grassroots level and in supporting the national team.

The decline of hockey in Pakistan is a sad reality caused by corruption, nepotism, and lack of funding in sports. Reforms are urgently needed to revive the sport, which Pakistan once dominated. The country still has talented players who need proper training, facilities, and exposure. A transparent and merit-based selection process is necessary, and the government and private sector can support hockey by funding infrastructure, tournaments, and academies.

Reviving hockey is crucial for Pakistan’s national pride and requires action from authorities and policymakers.

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