By Ijaz Choudhry
Olympic gold medallist Taqueer Dar Talks About Pakistan’s Finest Hockey Academy
Established in 2006 with just seven boys, Lahore based Tanvir Dar hockey academy is now acknowledged as Pakistan’s finest colts’ factory.
Functioning without any help from the government, it has been a great success story.
The academy is now providing quality players to the national teams at all the tiers/age groups.
The academy’s founder president, Olympic gold medallist, Taqueer Dar who is in England these days talks about the academy’s achievements and future plans.
- How you see the ‘Tanvir Dar Hockey Academy’ after four years of its inception?
We started with just seven kids and now we have around 70 boys. Our boys have brought laurels for the academy but more importantly they have won selection for Pakistan’s national teams.
- Can you tell us more about the academy’s achievements?
The main purpose of the academy is to groom quality players for Pakistan.
It gives me immense satisfaction that in such a small period, our boys have donned the Pakistan shirts for various teams. Four of our boys were members of the Pakistan team which won the under 18 Asia cup in 2009. Then the Pakistan under 22 side, the winners of the South Asian Games early this year had three players from the Tanvir Dar HA. And now our boys have also started gaining selection for the national senior outfits. Imran Butt debuted for the Pakistan’s national senior team in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup this May.
- The academy is being run without any support from the government. How you manage it?
We were quite apprehensive in the beginning but have been very fortunate in getting sponsorships from various sources. You know that sponsors always look at the results, and the academy is producing results. The academy teams are winning and our boys are gaining selection for Pakistan’s national sides. This attracts more patrons.
- Something about the coaching and training of the boys?
We have a very good team of coaches. Wahid Khan Billoo is a person who eats, drinks, sleeps and dreams hockey. You can’t find a better grass root worker. Then Olympian M.Akhlaq is a qualified coach who has attended many FIH courses and has also been associated with Pakistan’s national outfits.
But I am also fully aware of the importance of providing good competition. Apart from domestic opposition, we look abroad as well. In 2008, our boys travelled to Amritsar, India and won the All India Maharaja Ranjit Singh under 15 tournament.
This year academy’s under 16 side had a very successful tour of three major European hockey nations, Holland, Belgium and Germany.
- Tell us about this European tour?
It was my earnest desire to test the skills of our boys against their European counterparts. It was litmus test to find whether we had been working on right lines.
n Holland, the under 16 side of Tanvir Dar HA appeared in an international youth tournament featuring teams from Holland, Germany and France. The academy team lifted the trophy winning all the matches. They also remained unbeaten in Belgium and Germany. In total, we played 17 matches, winning 16 and drawing one.
The return tickets and the visas of the academy were financed by our Pakistani sponsors while the boarding and lodging as well as the travel within Europe was taken care by our hosts.
- Immediate future plans?
I visit England almost every year. England has a very good hockey structure especially at youth level. The school hockey in this country is the best organised in the whole Europe. The single system introduced by the England hockey is an excellent scheme to reach all the parts of the country and all the sections of the society.
So it will be wonderful if the Dar HA tours England in near future, may be the next year. As there is a large population of ethnic Pakistanis is this country so I am sure there will be good crowds in our matches and the tour will be well covered by the Asian media in the UK.
Academy’s achievements mean we can rope in sponsors in Pakistan to finance our travel both ways but we will need a formal invitation from our hosts in England which is a prerequisite to obtain the UK visas.