Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pakistan can't afford to lose...

Born in Faisalabad, Pakistani hockey player Shahbaz Ahmed is one of the best forwards ever. He led his national team to the World Cup in 1994.

By Imran Ali Teepu

ISLAMABAD: Disqualification in the upcoming hockey World Cup 2010 qualifying round has the potential to ‘jeopardise’ hockey as a sport in Pakistan for years to come, said Shahbaz Ahmed Senior.
Speaking to Dawn on Wednesday, Pakistan’s hockey great said: ‘It all depends on the seriousness of the hockey players therefore they should play as if they are playing the World Cup and must clear the qualifying round.’
Pakistan will feature in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers in Lille, France, from Oct 31 to Nov 8.
The green shirts will test their mettle against 14th ranked Japan, 17th France, 22nd Poland, 23rd Russia and 26th Italy, thus having mere chances to confirm a berth for the prestigious event slated to be held in India.
‘Pakistan should not take it easy as it looks right now because the fitness of the national players is not so good and clearing the qualifying round will largely depend on the commitment, discipline and physical fitness of the players,’ said Shahbaz, who was among the most-capped Pakistanis with 304 caps in international field hockey.
‘Failing to clear the qualifying round will endanger the future of hockey in Pakistan,’ said the former captain.
While answering a question, Shahbaz pointed out: ‘It is not the responsibility of the Pakistan Hockey Federation to build up the motion for the qualifiers instead it depends more on the senior players.’
Shahbaz asserted: ‘It’s the job of the captain to lead the team right from the first whistle of the game and encourage the senior players to play like a team with a unity factor in mind while the seniors should assist the junior players.’
‘As a former captain I had played my role in the past stressing on the need of team effort and worked out a strategy to win crucial fixtures at several international tournaments,’ he said.
The former forward was of the view that the national team during its upcoming important assignment should play with added spirit, unity and discipline while the seniors must buck-up the juniors as this would be a key factor for winning.


Malaysia desperate to qualify

By Ajitpal Singh

MALAYSIA face a desperate last chance to reach the World Cup in New Delhi in a winner-takes-all qualifying tournament in Ivercargill, New Zealand) on Nov 7-15.

Malaysia, ranked third in the qualifying tournament, have been drawn with favourites New Zealand, China, Austria, Scotland and Wales.
Based on hockey tradition and recent results, the Kiwis, ranked eighth in the world to Malaysia's 16th, are favourite to win the single World Cup spot.
For the record, Malaysia last played in the World Cup when it was held in Kuala Lumpur in 2002 and on merit, have only made it to the World Cup twice since 1980 -- in 1982 in Bombay and 1998 in Utrecht.

National coach Tai Beng Hai picked New Zealand and China as Malaysia's main rivals in the qualifying tournament.
"However, we cannot take other teams lightly as I believe Scotland, Wales and Austria are also good teams," said Beng Hai yesterday.
"European teams are fast improving and their basic hockey is extremely good. We defeated Austria (3-2) in the Champions Challenge II (July) and have not faced Scotland and Wales for a long time."
As for China, Beng Hai said they have been making steady progress of late.
The last time both teams met, China, the World No 13, beat Malaysia on penalty strokes to finish third in the Asia Cup in May.
"China are fast progressing as a hockey power. They play the speed-and-power game and it has worked for them," Beng Hai said.
With regards to the Kiwis, Beng Hai said home advantage will boost their confidence. Malaysia have only won once against the Kiwis in six encounters this year.
The national team beat them 2-0 in a friendly early this year, and drew 1-1 in the Azlan Shah Cup in April.
Last month, Malaysia lost three times and drew twice in a five-test series in New Zealand. However, the national team were without several regulars including Chua Boon Huat, Kelvinder Singh and Azlan Misron.

On the national team's preparations ahead of the Qualifiers, Beng Hai said the team will likely go on a six-match tour to China on Sept 28 on the invitation of the China Hockey Association

"There are several plans in the pipeline and they will be revealed after it's finalised," added Beng Hai.
There are 30 trainees in the national squad.
QUALIFYING Groups -- Lille (France): France, Pakistan, Japan, Poland, Russia, Italy (Oct 31-Nov 8).
Ivercargill (New Zealand): New Zealand, China, Malaysia, Austria, Scotland, Wales (Nov 7-15).
Quilmes (Argentina): Argentina, Belgium, Ireland, US, Czech Republic, Chile (Nov 14-22).
Countries already qualified for the 2010 New Delhi World Cup (Feb 28-March 13): Canada (Pan American Cup); South Korea (Asia Cup); South Africa (Africa Cup of Nations); Australia (Oceania Cup); England (Winners -- EuroNations); Germany (second -- EuroNations); Netherlands (third -- EuroNations); Spain (fourth -- EuroNations).

Scotts in our group

Scotland’s senior men face a World Cup qualifier in Invercargill, New Zealand this Autumn, with a place at the FIH World Cup in New Delhi, India in 2010 up for grabs.
The team will be coached in New Zealand by junior men’s coach Russell Garcia, whose assistant coach Derek Forsyth also steps up from his role with the junior men for the qualifiers, which take place 7-15th November.
The Scots’ fifth place finish at the EuroHockey Nations Trophy in Wrexham last month secured their spot in a qualifier. The qualifier will take place in Invercargill New Zealand this Autumn, with Scotland playing in a round-robin tournament along with China, Malaysia, Austria, New Zealand and Wales. The winners will take their place at the FIH World Cup in New Delhi in February 2010.
Coach Russell Garcia said: “I’m happy to be taking on this role, and we’re taking a long term view on it in terms of giving younger players the chance. We’ll be using these qualifiers as an opportunity to get to the World Cup, but also as a stepping stone for the European Trophy squad for 2011 as well as the Commonwealth Games in 2014.”
Scottish Hockey’s Performance Manager Callum McLeod said: “I'm delighted that both Russell and Derek have agreed to lead the programme as they bring a huge amount of experience with them. Both are fully committed and highly motivated to deliver the best possible programme in the short space of time.”

Scottish Hockey Union media release