The name of Pakistan in world hockey is unquestionably up there with the greats of hockey although not in recent times. We all know that this universe has a common rule, Nothing lasts forever and things revolve like a ‘Ferris wheel’ always changing and coming around or what goes up must come down and every defeat brings a victory in the end. Whatever happens the Ferris Wheel keeps rotating.
Pakistan hockey is continually shaking the world hockey stage and causing upsets now and again.
Hockey in Pakistan is governed by The Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF), the organisation is always trying to make hockey in Pakistan work out for the best. The structure of Pakistan Hockey is different to the rest of the world, Players are a part of an organisation, where they are given employee status and their job is to play for that organisation and just like any organisation they have annual salaries and a pension on retirement.
The organisations are as follows:
- Pakistan Water And Power Development Authority (WAPDA).
- National Bank of Pakistan (NBP).
- Sui southern Gas (SSGC).
- Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).
- Pakistan Army.
- Pakistan Navy.
- Pakistan Air Force.
The continuing efforts of the PHF to expand the participation of hockey have seen them bringing in new organisations like, Mari Petroleum, Port Qasim, Pakistan Police and Pakistan Railway. The PHF is always searching for young blood who have talent, determination and are enthused amongst other things to bring in a perfect combination to introduce a new era of hockey in Pakistan. The PHF have also sought to get guidance from Olympic gold medalists and world cup winners, they are set to make a comeback in hockey with all the changes they are introducing.
The top level hockey in Pakistan is called National Level, the local leagues are called senior championships and then there is The National championship which is held at the end of the season. The National Championship is the conclusive event of any class of Pakistan Hockey, something to look forward to, even for the legends in the world of hockey. The most recent happened between 23 july and 5 August.
The largest hockey stage for hockey in Pakistan was held in one of the biggest cities “Karachi” which is home to an impressive 30 million and developing into a good metropolis.
The weather was an average, for Pakistan, but blistering 43° Celsius. The schedule was packed with heat in more ways than one, you could say it was on fire.
One can already imagine how intense the heat had over the players, between they had a turf filled with water which rested under the players. The water flying off of the turf with each pass a site to be witnessed, and for the players whose body it touched, an absolute luxury. The goalkeepers seeming to have had a deep diving session too. This was very much the place to be in Pakistan especially if you love hockey, where else can you see the stars of Pakistan Hockey in one place. This is more than enough to cause a fire regardless of the sweltering heat, like they say in marvel comics, I’m a big fan, it is unwise to keep infinity stones together, but these stones are not the six that we are all aware of but rather more in number, one for every player participating in the tournament, you could call them “The infinity stones of Pakistan Hockey”.
The National Championships had 20 participating teams. All the Organisations mentioned above and provincial teams too. Pakistan has officially five provinces Punjab, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa a.k.a K.P.K., Sindh, Balochistan and Gilgit Balstistan. A team from the tribal areas “FATA” also participated.
Since Pakistan is a vast land, PHF made special room for areas where hockey needed to be promoted in a better way. PHF made special room for WAPDA and The Army too giving them a chance to have two teams in the competition. The system was a simple lineup with five groups, five teams in each group, every team with 4 group matches, a quarter final phase a semi-final phase and a final to decide the crown bearers.
The tournament started off in style with teams having huge scores like 11-0 and 17-2.
The organizational teams are very much established and strong with some very talented players and the provincial teams who were expectedly underdogs in the tournament. There were a combination of strong and relatively weaker provincial teams which seemed like a good mix. The tournament went as expected with organizational teams absolutely crushing provincial teams and having a tough face off with other organizational teams. However at times the PHF’s objectives were fulfilled when the young blood in KPK provincial team and Punjab provincial team held up as a strong wall against their respective organisations. National Bank of Pakistan defending champion were in the same group as KPK team but to the surprise of everyone K.P.K. young blood stood against every organisation with pure class. But at the very end organizational teams won with a lead of 1 or 2 goals in the last quarters of the games. Not to take anything away from K.P.K every match, regardless of the drama, was a pinnacle of class from them.
The level of drama stepped up when the tournament entered the quarter-final stage. The favorite teams were WAPDA white, NBP, PIA and SSGC. PIA has won this tournament the most with 11 titles but NBP was the defending champion this year.
Unluckily PIA lost to SSGC with a difference of one goal and four teams were in semi-final Phase. WAPDA white, WAPDA blue, SSGC and NBP. To everyone’s surprise both of WAPDA’s teams qualified . The semi-finals had so much heat in them and not just from the weather, to another surprise both of WAPDA teams were disqualified.
This tournament turned out to be a pure piece of drama with Thriller Genre.
The final had people resting with a lot of odd expectations like the tournament was already odd. Even though NBP was very strong, people expected SSGC to win and honestly, I also hoped for SSGC to make history because the way their forward line played they could have easily won many matches in euro hockey league but again to everyone’s surprise the forward line scored no goal with the only goal from their side coming from a penalty corner.
The match rested on a draw and a penalty shoot out was done to decide the king. Both sides had very strong goalkeepers and it seemed as if the one who scores first would win and the Keepers would handle the rest. But again to our surprise NBP won, scoring 5 consecutive goals and SSGC scoring only 4, the Keepers saved none. There it was the surprise tournament. The plot was sad for everyone except NBP, everyone expected a new winner. Let’s see if the crown stays on their head in the following year too or …………
By M.Ahmer Sajjad