Once a revered national sport, hockey is now waning into insignificance. Stars of the national team have claimed that they may not return after the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. An absent structure to recruit new talent, inadequate funds for infrastructural development, low viewer ratings and a lack of political will to revive the sport have all aided its downfall in Pakistan.

Just recently, the vice-captain of Pakistan’s hockey team, Ali Shan, announced his retirement. He has chosen to play in England instead. Many other players have decided to leave and a primary reason for this is financial constraints along with the lack of opportunities for hockey in Pakistan. The situation is seemingly to be so bleak that even the current physical trainer, Daniel Berry, has decided to resign soon.

Pakistan failed to qualify for the 2023 World Cup and, as per the admission of head coach Siegfried Aikman, we are the lowest-ranked team at the Commonwealth games as well. The lack of support is rooted in a system that fails to uplift and maintain hockey standards. The public cannot be faulted for disassociating with a sport whose players perform poorly because they don’t have the resources needed to thrive.

For years, the government has prioritised other sports like cricket and football over hockey and this is reflected in annual budget allocations. For the upcoming financial year, over Rs.15 billion has been given to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) while the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) struggles to secure millions. This means that there is more to spend on developing and enhancing cricket facilities and operational activities instead of hockey.

Athletes are wary of the lack of facilities and consequently, many choose not to pursue a career that is set up for failure from the get go. However, there are still a select few who are loyal to the sport and pursue it for the sake of bringing back its glory and the government must at least fight for them, if not out of respect for its history in Pakistan. There will also be the added benefit of benefiting economically if we get the ball. The PSL’s financial success is there for all to see, and bids for streaming rights brought in more. Hockey could do the same if it is given the platform to shine once again.