Senior Pakistan hockey players to be replaced after Asian Games

October 27th, 2010 - 7:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Karachi, Oct 27 (IANS) Several senior Pakistan hockey players will be on their way out after the Nov 12-27 Asian Games, with chief selector Hanif Khan announcing plans to raise a young team for the 2012 London Olympics.

Hanif said plans have been made to raise a young and strong team for the Olympic Games which is Pakistan’s long-term target.

“We will begin a comprehensive rebuilding process immediately after the Asian Games,” Hanif told The News Wednesday.

“We will have 18 months to prepare our team for the Olympics and will want to just persist with young players.”

Hanif said players like Pakistan captain Zeeshan Ashraf and former skippers Rehan Butt, Waseem Ahmed, Shakeel Abbasi and Salman Akber will have to go after the Asian Games even if Pakistan win the title.

“Regardless of how the team performs in the Asian Games, we will rebuild it for the 2012 Olympic Games. The senior players, who are already 30 or older than that, will be replaced by youngsters.”

Pakistan won the last of their three Olympic golds back in 1984 in Los Angeles and have since experienced a dramatic slump in their performance at the international level.

This year, Pakistan crashed to a humiliating last-place finish in the World Cup in New Delhi in March and then returned to the Indian capital earlier this month for the Commonwealth Games only to finish a disappointing sixth.

In both the events, Pakistan relied heavily on senior players like captain Zeeshan Ashraf, midfielder Ahmed and forwards Butt and Abbasi. But the quartet failed to live up to expectations, forcing the team’s critics to call for their axing from the national team.

However, the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has decided to retain them while Khan has opted to recall another senior player - Sohail Abbas - for the Asian Games.

Pakistan axed Sohail after the World Cup debacle but Hanif is of the view that the short corner specialist can help Pakistan win the Asian Games crown.

“Sohail is like a terror on the Asian circuit and can help us win the title in China,” Hanif said.

A gold in the Asian Games will give Pakistan a direct spot for the London Olympics.

“We have to win the Asian Games at all costs,” said Hanif, an Olympian. “It will help us qualify for the Olympics and give us 18 months to prepare our boys for the London Games.”

Hanif will sit down with his fellow selectors and top officials of the Pakistan team later this week to decide the line-up for the Asian Games.

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