Rehan Butt has been the mainstay of Pakistan hockey for a long time. The prolific scorer is again at the vanguard of Pakistan's hopes of reclaiming the Games title. Despite the absence of senior players like Mohammad Saqlain and Sohail Abbas, Butt still nurtures hopes of winning.
Excerpts of the interview with the Pakistan skipper:
How prepared are you to reclaim title here?
We have been preparing for the last one month and our focus is on physical fitness because at the Asian Games, we don't have to concentrate much on technique. The Chinese and the Koreans have very fit squads.
With the dropping of five top players on disciplinary grounds, what would be your strategy here?
We have a new set of boys and we have to take care they don’t come under pressure. Our aim is the Olympics and we have to win here for automatic qualification to the Olympics. Reaching the final is our first target.
Do you have a grass-root system in place back home?
We do not have a grass-root system as such. The quality at the junior level is not as high as it was a few years back. India, in contrast, have so much talent. But in the case of Pakistan, we have come with the best available talent. My federation consulted me during the team selection. It's a team chosen on merit… I have been given the team I wanted.
Do you think the Europeans are formulating rules of the game?
The Europeans have changed rules for themselves. They simply did it to suit their game. For example, the off side rule should never have been removed. The astro-turf was first brought in football, but as there were too many injuries, it was discontinued with. So why use it in hockey? The rule changes were simply to make the sport easier for the Europeans.
What do you think ails subcontinental hockey?
The problem with India and Pakistan hockey is that if a local coach takes over, there are 10 other coaches who become his enemy. He is targetted and every effort is made to remove him. The only reason we bring in foreign coaches is because of this infighting.
Whenever a foreign coach comes in, nobody conspires against him and he gets the sole authority. So the team improves, but by the time the team is ready, there are again changes.
Is there a way to beat the Europeans?
They can be beaten if we groom our younger lot — it will take them around 20 or 30 international matches to get the experience.
If the team is not altered for 4-5 years, I think we can beat the Europeans.