THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE, KARACHI, 25th SEPTEMBER 2013:
A couple of hours after Akhtar Rasool resigned as the national team’s head coach and manager yesterday, the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) announced the preliminary squad for forthcoming assignments, excluding a majority of players who participated in the Asia Cup.
Veteran striker Shakeel Abbasi and seasoned goalkeeper Salman Akbar are among the ten snubbed players in the list of 27 probables who will start the training camp from Friday in Lahore.
However, Mohammad Imran, who led the team at the Asia Cup in which the side failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, has been retained.
Pakistan will take part in the Nine-a-side International Super Series in Perth, Australia from October 17 – 25 besides playing few Tests against the home side and Argentina.
The greenshirts will then fly to Kakamigahara, Japan to defend their Asian Champions Trophy title on November 1.
The PHF management replaced senior players in the initial squad with members of the national junior team, who are currently participating in the Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia.
Rebuilding has begun: Tahir Zaman
Tahir Zaman, who will supervise the training camp and is most likely to replace Rasool as the team’s coach, said the probables were selected unanimously by all stakeholders in light of the Asia Cup report given by the team management.
“Tough decisions became inevitable as we are facing the challenge of rebuilding,” Zaman toldThe Express Tribune.
“Our next target is the 2014 Asian Games in which we will aim to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.
“We will now bank on our junior players and will give them exposure in this rebuilding process. We have time for that now as we are no more contenders for the World Cup.”
Zaman vowed he will ensure that only the best players get the nod.
“The only recommendation from now on will be based on consistent performances. Only players fulfilling this criterion, irrespective of their age or name, will be in the team.”
The Olympian, however, said the players who were dropped or overlooked could make a comeback.
“We have dropped Abbasi, Waqas Sharif, Mohammad Irfan and Zubair.
“Salman [Akbar], Rashid [Mehmood], Haseem Khan and Fareed Ahmed are busy in the Dutch league so we decided not to include them in order to give exposure to the youngsters.
“But the doors are not closed for anyone as any player can make a comeback by proving his worth.”
He also confirmed that the PHF will soon hold an exhibition match in honour of Waseem Ahmed where he will formally announce his retirement.
‘My best wishes remain with Pakistan hockey’
Rasool, who stepped down as the head coach and manager yesterday, wished the team well for the future. “I have tendered my resignation to the PHF,” said Rasool. “My services and best wishes will remain with the country’s hockey.”
Rasool is the second top PHF official to resign in the aftermath of the failure to qualify for the World Cup. Earlier, Asif Bajwa handed his resignation as the PHF secretary amid heavy criticism.
It is expected that Rasool will now contest elections for the post of the PHF president later this month.
Imran Shah, Imran Butt, Khurram Majeed, Mohammad Imran (c), Mohammad Ateeq, Aamir Shahzad, Shafqat Rasool, Yasir Shabbir, Mohammad Salman Hussain, Mazhar Abbas, Amin Yousaf, Mohammad Khalid, Syed Kashif Shah, Mohammad Rizwan Junior, Mohammad Tousiq, M Faisal Qadir, Mohammad Dilber, Ali Shan, Mohammad Umair, Mohammad Umar Bhutta, Zohaib Ashraf, Mohammad Kashif Javed, Ammad Shakeel Butt, Mohammad Suleman, Arslan Qadir, Ahmed Zubair and Ayub Ali