Pakistan on Friday appointed Olympian Shahid Ali Khan as the new head coach of the national hockey team, assigning him to prepare a strong team for the Asia Cup in May in Dubai.
The decision to appoint Shahid was taken during the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) executive board meeting in Lahore.
A senior PHF official told IANS that Shahid was installed as the coach after another Olympian Ayaz Mahmood failed to join national duty after his employers - Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) didn't release him. Ayaz, who is currently posted as PIA's Station Manager in Moscow, was appointed as Pakistan coach last October.
Shahid, 44, is one of Pakistan's most celebrated goal-keepers and played important roles in its title-winning triumphs in the 1982 World Cup in Mumbai and the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He also has two Asian Games and three Asia Cup gold medals under his belt.
"I will try my best to help Pakistan regain its lost glory in hockey," Shahid told IANS in an interview soon after being picked to supervise Pakistan's training for the Asia Cup.
Shahid said that he and fellow coaches will leave no stone unturned in their bid to raise a team good enough to win the Asia Cup.
"We have to win the Asia Cup because that would earn us a direct entry in the 2010 World Cup in India," he said. "We cannot take the risk of playing in the World Cup qualifying rounds," he stressed.
Only the Asia Cup winning team will earn a direct World Cup slot from Asia. Other teams will have to feature in the qualifiers to be held in November.