New Delhi - Pakistan junior hockey team's coach M Danish Kaleem says his boys are here to ‘win Indian hearts’ and in the process play well to win the Junior World Cup, starting here at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium Dec 6-15.
"Pakistan are here to win Indian hearts, our sportsperson are ambassadors of peace and we should be seen in that light," Kaleem said on landing in the capital from Amritsar, where they had crossed into through the Attari border by road in the morning. "India-Pakistan rivalry, be it in hockey or cricket, is always healthy and exciting. I hope both the teams make it to the final, it will be good for the sport in the sub-continent," he said.
The Olympian refused to accept that the sub-continental hockey was on the decline, and said their style was always pleasing to watch. "The beauty of hockey played by India and Pakistan is skill-oriented and less accented on power. And the skill is always pleasing to watch than the European brand of hit and run hockey," he said.
Kaleem recalled the 1982 Asia Games hockey final when a star-studded Pakistan thrashed India 7-1 here at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium. "The 1982 Asian Games will always be a glorious moment for Pakistan hockey. The greatness of that final was the overflowing National Stadium did not leave even when it was evident that Indians were going to lose heavily. Not a single fan left the stadium till the final whistle. Delhi is known for its sporting crowd and we hope they will back us here again," said Kaleem, who was a member of that gold winning side.
Kaleem said hopes were high from the juniors at a time when the senior team, who were record four-time champions, failed to qualify for next year's World Cup for the first time since 1971. "This is a new start for Pakistan hockey. We are going through a tough transitory phase after the senior team failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup for the first time. We are going through a serious crisis and the Junior World Cup has come at the right time for the players to lift themselves up. We have come here with a talented bunch and they offer a new hope," Kaleem said.
Kaleem said the 2012 London Olympian Umar Bhutta, who will be leading the side and his deputy M Tauseeq were the key players. Bhutta also led the side in the Sultan of Johor Cup, where Pakistan were thrashed 0-4 by India, who went on to win the title.
"But we did well to win the Asian Champions Trophy in Japan last month. In Japan, we had also beaten India even though it was a close match. Some of the youngsters were part of that senior team and the experience will surely benefit them," he asserted.
Pakistan are in Goup A with Germany, the record five times winners and holders, Belgium and Egypt. "We are just thinking about the first match and the match against Germany. We just want to take one match at a time. Pakistan wants to make a winning start and that could change the course of the tournament for us," said Kaleem.
Asked about his team's chances, Kaleem said: "All the 16 teams here have just one aim - win the World Cup - and Pakistan are as determined to win the World Cup." Kaleem signed off saying his wish was a India-Pakistan final.