Rehan Butt is unlike many hockey players in the sub-continent. He has clear ideas on what should be done to improve the standard of hockey in India and Pakistan and unlike many of the stalwarts believes India and Pakistan should play more and more with European nationals and not among themselves.
He speaks his mind out but does not blame the federation, as has become a fashion in some circles, for all the ills plaguing the game. “I think the India-Pakistan series is a waste of time. There is no point in two teams that are sliding down the ladder playing against each other. One of them may get bragging rights but it will not help them much at international level.”
But he does not shy away from controversies like the latest one in Pakistan before the Doha Asian Games when four senior players – Sohail Abbas, Wasim Ahmed, Mohd Saqlain and Ghazanfar Ali -- chose contracts in foreign leagues above national interests.
“I have great respect for them but it looked like they played the Champions Trophy and World Cup to prepare for the European leagues, secured their contracts and left without even informing the federation, which I think was wrong,” Butt told Hindustan Times in an interview on the sidelines of the Premier Hockey League. He is here to play for Bangalore Lions, the team he represented last year too.
Butt, who was appointed Pakistan captain for Doha Asian Games, says exodus of star players will become a big problem for India and Pakistan in coming years and wants the federations to avoid losing talent by introducing central contracts for the top 18 players like in cricket.
“That is absolutely necessary and unlike cricket, the amount would be something like Rs 40,000 per month and the federation won’t spend too much. Money could be raised by selling logos on the kit. The financial security will keep the players at home and they won’t be jaded from playing non-stop hockey at the international level and leagues.”
The 26-year-old right-out who plays and works for Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), the government-owned firm entrusted with power generation in Pakistan, believes hockey would get back its lost glory in India and Pakistan only if the federation develop long-term plans and use modern training methods and foreign coaches at the junior level.
“We got for short-term results, like winning a tournament and feel as if we are on the way to the top. The Europeans plan for big events like World Cup and Olympics. Germany lost to India, Pakistan and Holland in the last few years but developed a world cup winning side. That how we too have to go,” said Butt.
Butt says there is no point in appointing foreign coaches for senior teams. “The players already have set habits and pattern of play, they can’t be changed now. But the juniors could be moulded as per the European system and the results will come when they join the senior team.
For seniors, they can have an FIH trained coach along with a senior former player, who will work together, using modern technique and experience to guide the senior team.”
The Pakistan captain said the PHL was a rage on Pakistan television, a stature it has not gained in India. “It is a very good league and though some innovations like time outs break the rhythm of the game others like third umpire are really good."
"I think, a third umpire is a must at the international level as the game as become too fast and there is increased scope for umpires making an error. I don’t think third umpire will not reduce the importance of the field umpire.”