New Delhi: Hurt by his team's winless campaign at the recently-concluded Hockey World Cup, Pakistan coach Rehan Butt has rued the systemic decline of the sport in his country, and called for structural reforms to restore Pakistan's lost glory on the turf.
"I am pained and saddened by the state of Pakistan hockey. Back home, nobody is passionate about the sport. Everyone follows just cricket, and unfortunately, even that doesn't happen on our soil. Everyone wants their kids to play cricket because there is money there. Unless international teams don't come to Pakistan, youngsters won't be inclined to play hockey. I am pretty sure that this World Cup must have inspired at least 10-12 youngsters in Bhubaneswar to play hockey for India. That's the effect hosting international matches can have at the local level," Butt said in an exclusive interaction with Firstpost.
Pakistan's domestic hockey is in doldrums, and the erstwhile powerhouses such as Punjab and Sindh Bank and Habib Bank do not offer jobs through sports quota anymore. Butt said that Pakistan can take a cue from India and look to provide financial security to its players.
"If, like India, Pakistan also start preparing kids at the ground level, offer them jobs and facilities, the situation may improve. I won't let my son play hockey, because there is no future in Pakistan. There are no jobs through sports quota," the former centre-forward said.
Pakistan were placed with Germany, Malaysia, and The Netherlands in what was christened as 'Pool of Death' at the World Cup. They advanced to crossovers after losing to Germany (1-0) and The Netherlands (5-1), while they played a 1-1 draw against Malaysia. In crossovers, they lost to eventual champions Belgium with a crushing 5-0 margin.
Butt, whose realistic expectation was to guide his team to the quarter-finals, pinned the blame for Pakistan's dismal show at the lack of grassroots talent.
"The main reason for our poor performance is that we are not getting talent from grassroots. We only have a pool of 24-25 boys, and we are forced to rotate them. Our current forwards don't have the ability of their predecessors. In the entire tournament, our forwards didn't score a single goal; what could be more pathetic? No coach and no management can do anything about it. We can make a gameplan, but the execution has to be done by the players," he said.
Further, the 38-year-old took a dig at Pakistan's chop-and-change approach to coaches, and admitted that such mindset makes him nervous.
"The volatility in Pakistan hockey makes me nervous. If, before going into a major tournament, you tell a coach that if a certain result is not achieved, you'll be fired, I don't think any coach will be able to give his 100 percent. Also, the players won't give much heed to a coach under such circumstances, because they know that it's the coach who is going to get an axe while their places are secure.
"Winning and losing are part of the game, but to put the blame of losses entirely on coaches is not done. I would not defend the loss, but I think our federations should give the power to coaches to act after such results. They should be given time to understand their shortcomings and work on them within a timeframe. If, after that timeframe, the results are still not there, that particular coach must leave on his own. If you keep changing coaches and management after every failure, the coach wouldn't have time to implement his ideas," he said.
Butt added that a more patient approach with coaches also rules out complacency among players, who, otherwise, are loath to adapt to a coach's philosophy.
"The tendency among players in India and Pakistan is that they know their places are secure, and the action will be taken on coaches only. If they are told that coaches are here to stay and they have to develop their game to retain their places, their game will improve.
"Spain didn't qualify for crossovers, but you will find the same coach in the Pro League giving better results. Why? Because he will analyse his performance and come back stronger. You need to give time to coaches."
Pakistan hockey's immediate target, Butt said, is the Pro League that begins on 19 January. The six-month competition will also serve as an Olympic qualifier, and the coach said his team's focus would be to seal their berth for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
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Updated Date: Dec 24, 2018 17:46:29 IST