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Pakistan search for answers after WC flop

Winners in 1971, '78, '82 and '94, Pakistan missed out on a place in the semi-finals for their third consecutive World Cup, this year.

india Updated: Sep 15, 2006 17:19 IST

Pakistan's hockey community is searching for a way to halt the alarming decline in standards in the game after the national team's flop at the World Cup in Germany.

Pakistan, World Cup winners in 1971, '78, '82 and '94, managed to win only one pool match, against Japan. They lost to Argentina and Australia and drew with New Zealand and Spain to miss out on a place in the semi-finals for their third consecutive World Cup.

Pakistan last won a grand slam title in 1994 when Dutch coach Hans Jorrits led them to World Cup victory.

The Pakistan Hockey Federation has said it was considering appointing another foreign coach to stop the decline but that idea has not found universal favour.

"A foreign coach can achieve nothing with this team and in our system," former Pakistan forward Hasan Sardar told Reuters.

"The hockey downfall will continue unless the system is overhauled."

Sardar said hockey had ceased to be a major sport in Pakistan as there was no new talent emerging.

"There is no financial incentive or job security for players," the Olympic gold medallist said.

Despite Pakistan's poor performance at the World Cup there was little outcry from the general public, who have become used to hockey disappointments in recent years.

"When you don't win anything internationally who is going to follow hockey?" asked hockey commentator Sheikh Naqi.

"We just don't have the players with the mental strength and skills of our former stars. It is a shame."

Former captain Hanif Khan said cricket had taken over as the number one sport in Pakistan as it was more professionally organised and offered more opportunities for players.

Pakistan had fallen behind Australia and European powers such as the Netherlands, Germany and Spain because it was slow to react to changes in the game, he said.

"We play a system which is a mixture of Asian and European styles and it does not work like this," Khan added.

"The other teams have not improved - only our standards have fallen."

Islahuddin Siddiqui, who led Pakistan to a World Cup title in 1978, said the game needed to be reorganised at grass-roots level.

"We need to get back to our roots, which is the pure Asian style. And we need new players to start taking up the game."

Samiullah Khan, who dazzled as a winger, pressed for the appointment of paid coaches and to make them accountable.

"If you don't pay the local coaches they are not pushed if the team does not perform. They come in for the prestige and spotlight and nothing else," he stated.