ISLAMABAD: Though hockey activities have almost returned to normal in Europe but the Asian Hockey is still passing through the toughest days because it seems that the continent may not be in a position to hold any international event this year.
The Junior Asia Cup scheduled for July in Bangladesh has already been postponed and there is all likelihood that the country may not be able to hold September’s Asian Champions Trophy.
In case the Junior Asia Cup which will also serve as the World Cup qualifying round for Asian teams could not be staged in time, there would be a big question mark on staging of the Junior World Cup scheduled to be held in India in December. India is in grip of an unprecedented wave of Covid-19 with people contracting virus in lacs and losing their lives in thousands on a daily basis. The country crippled by the virus may not be in a position to hold any international sporting event this year.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) is already mulling backup plan to move T20 World Cup to the UAE following the IPL’s postponement. The future of the Junior Hockey World Cup also looks bleak unless the International Hockey Federation (FIH) announces alternate plans, shifting the event to a much safer place. Some of the European hockey-playing countries are expected to take up the issue with newly elected think-tank of the international body following the virtual FIH elections on May 21.
Sadly, Pakistan hockey has no role to play even at the Asian level these days to pursue their case. Pakistan could easily offer to stage these events or even pursue the FIH to make alternate plans for the Junior Asia Cup and to allot the December 2021 World Cup to Pakistan as by that time almost all adults in the country would have been vaccinated.
After getting fresh new turf at Naseer Bunda Hockey Ground in Islamabad, the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) can easily host the Junior Asia Cup here any time after July, if Bangladesh government is reluctant to hold the event.
With hotel facilities around, the venue offers a perfect setting for such an event. Only a couple of months back, the Pakistan Sports Complex hosted a high-profile Davis Cup tie between Pakistan and Japan in a successful manner. There is no reason why Pakistan cannot hold the event even in July on its original dates. Pakistan is comparatively much safer South Asian country — an advantage that should be exploited by the PHF. For the purpose, the PHF needs to improve its liaison with the Asian Hockey Federation and the FIH. So far there have been no signals from these international bodies that could suggest that the one-time powerhouse of the game is slowly regaining its international status.
It is high time for the PHF to make moves and try to fill in the vacuum created by India’s inability to hold international events. For that the PHF officials will have to be proactive rather leaving everything to the fate.