Stand up for the Champions

On Thursday, after a hiatus of 20 years, Pakistan hockey returned to its rightful place as champions of Asia. It was also a momentous day for the men’s squash team who upset Malaysia to clinch the team honours. Earlier, the Pakistan women’s cricket team made the nation proud by winning its maiden T-20 Asian Games gold medal.The hockey team won gold by beating Malaysia 2-0 in the final. In winning this tournament, Pakistan has automatically qualified for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Although hockey is Pakistan’s national sport, its development has largely been neglected. For years, the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has been lacking professionalism. For too long it has played second fiddle to cricket. There are only seven Astro Turf fields in the country, out of which only 2-4 are in proper working condition. In comparison there are over 400 Astro Turfs in Holland. With this win it is hoped the hockey team can turn a new leaf and return to its glory days. So deep is our history in this sport that the PHF, under the initiative of Air Marshal M Nur Khan, introduced the World Cup Tournament and the Champions Trophy Tournament.

It is imperative to praise our new Pakistan hockey coach Michel van den Heuvel, who brought cohesion into the team that was previously missing. Also, goalkeeper Salman Akbar must be honoured for his heroics in the semi-final against South Korea, where he saved four out of seven penalty strokes. After this match Sohail Abbas was criticised and it was alleged that he was beyond his prime and should be put out to pasture. It is commendable how Sohail Abbas bounced back to show that he is the king of penalty corners. But we should not let this victory go to our heads and plan for the future. The London Olympics 2012 are just around the corner. Let us hope we also bring back that coveted trophy after 28 years.The men’s squash team defeated their Malaysian counterparts in the team event. During the reign of the Khans, Pakistan had no equals in this sport. Sadly, even with such role models we have failed to increase our talent pool in this discipline. The Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) must incorporate schools, colleges and universities to discover and nurture future talent.

Our women’s cricket team also won gold at the 16th Asian Games. These women were an example on and off the field. They are the epitome of professionalism, a lesson our men’s team can learn from them.Individual admiration must go to Ijaz Ahmed for winning a silver medal in the men’s sanshou 75-kilogramme category. Moreover, Aamir Atlas Khan delivered on his potential during the games by winning a silver medal for Pakistan in men’s individual squash.The manner in which these victories were celebrated back home shows how starved the people of the country are for good news. Sports is one of the few reliefs the citizens have in the midst of the ongoing war on terror. We are on the frontline of this war. Pakistan has lost more due to terrorism than any other country. The government and establishment must have a united and firm stand against this menace. Our duality on the Taliban has brought the country and its already fragile economy to a standstill. We as a nation must build on our victories in the 16th Asian Games and build for the future, a future that is free of terrorism and offers hope and progress – Dailytimes