ISLAMABAD - Olympians Islahuddin Siddiqui, Samiullah and Shakeel Abbasi have showed mixed reaction over Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF)’s decision of quitting the highly prestigious Hockey Champions Trophy (HCT).

It is pertinent to mention here that the International Hockey Federation (FIH) had sent PHF wildcard to play in the elite event, in which top six hockey super powers of the world have to clash for the top honours and interestingly, green shirts finished second in the last time’s Champions Trophy held in India in 2014 and gave Germany a real run for their money before going down 2-0 fighting in the final.

Sharing his views, former captain Islahuddin Siddiqui, who had honour of winning the inaugural edition of the Champions Trophy way back in 1978 as a skipper in Lahore and also held the unique record of winning three titles in same year, termed the move a wrong decision by the PHF as it would deny players with an opportunity to play in such a high-profile event and especially when international teams are not coming to play in Pakistan. “If green shirts miss these golden opportunities, which come their way like a lottery, as only top six teams of the world are eligible to play the HCT, then it will be too tough for them to regain lost hockey glory.”

He said Pakistan was at number 11 and even if they finished bottom among the six-nations, it wouldn’t affect their ranking rather if they managed to score win against giant strides, they could get improvement in their rankings. “Pakistan hockey team should avail all available options if it wants to excel and want to win big events.”

“At one end, the PHF official say, they need time for long planning but on the other hand, they have been missing the opportunity of providing best international exposure to their players where they can learn a lot from the top hockey teams of the world. But the PHF is playing safe game as they have been sending their team for Azlan Shah Cup, where they have to face relatively weaker opponents which will help them avoid severe criticism.

“When two teams are playing, one has to win and other has to lose. I was the chef-de-mission at 12th South Asian Games, where green shirts managed to beat Indian hockey team twice and that too at their own backyard, their morals are sky high, so at this moment, skipping Champions Trophy like event will dent their ambitions and will be not good for the players’ mentality. I hope the PHF will take concrete steps and ensure hockey back on same old golden days in short span of time,” he concluded.

Sharing his views, Olympian Samiullah, who is also known as flying horse, said: “I will take the decision of quitting Champions Trophy in two ways. Firstly, it is good, as if they are planning for next year and taking solid steps towards providing players opportunities and secondly, it is a very childish decision, considering the fact that after Junior Hockey World Cup, in case Pakistan team fails to finish in top 4, juniors will be deprived of much-needed international exposure of playing alongside seniors.”

He said that the test case of the PHF new management would be witnessed in the Azlan Shah Cup. “If the team plays well and never minds losing, it can gain morale boosting and encouragement to register big wins. We are always on back providing all-out support to the PHF and players, but if the team plays badly and fails to achieve desired results, then we will surely criticize them. “The PHF must understand that we are not against anybody. We want to see Pakistan hockey flourish with each passing day, but one thing is quite sure, no one can expect positive results with fear factor and skipping the event just because of fear of losing. The PHF must come up with rock solid plans, in my opinion, they have not done anything in last several months, so they should have given a clear cut plan and majority of the targets should have been achieved,” Sami concluded. Sharing his views, former captain Shakeel Abbasi backed the PHF for declining to play in the Champions Trophy. “Majority of the junior players were invited in the training camp while seniors were not included, which could have hampered Pakistan team’s chances, while the FIH should have extended invitation some time back so we could have given ample time to prepare the team.”

Shakeel lauded Hanif Khan’s appointment and described him his mentor and highly successful coach. “Hanif Khan will definitely help green shirts in best possible fashion, as he groomed me and made me better player. I am 100 percent fit and always ready to serve Pakistan hockey, whenever the PHF gives me a chance, I will certainly try my best to prove my selection right,” Shakeel concluded.