The PSL franchise is determined to revive hockey in Pakistan
The Lahore Qalandars have joined hands with the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) for the promotion and revival of the national game in the country.
Though the Pakistan Super League (PSL) is in full swing, the Qalandars management took out time to take the whole team to the open hockey trials at the Karachi Hockey Association ground.
Olympian Kaleemullah supervised the trials, and other members of the selection committee, Olympian Nasir Ali and Olympian Shakeel Abbasi, provided technical support to the athletes and also gave them tips to improve their game.
Nearly a thousand players turned up for the trials, and the likes of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Fakhar Zaman invigorated the participants to perform better.
The owner of Lahore Qalandars Atif Rana was overwhelmed by the attendance in the open trials. “We knew that people were interested in the sport but not in our wildest dreams did we expect this sort of turnout,” he said while talking to Bol News. “To select just 50 players from these many athletes will be a challenge for us.”
Elaborating on the next step in the revival of hockey in Pakistan, Atif said that similar trials will also be held in Lahore. Afterwards, two squads will be formed from both cities and they will face each other in a series of games.
Lahore Qalandars High-Performance Centre Director and former Test cricketer, who is also the head coach of the franchise Aaqib Javed was also seen playing hockey at the trials.
He maintained providing basic facilities is more important for players rather than foreign coaches. “Teams are not made by foreign coaches, but by the system,” he stated. “If a player gets food and practice facilities, he automatically becomes a star.”
Zaman and Afridi also tried their luck with the hockey stick before the Qalandars headed back to the National Stadium Karachi (now known as National Bank Cricket Arena) for the showdown against Quetta Gladiators.
Meanwhile, hockey legend Islahuddin praised PHF Secretary General and Sindh Hockey Association President Haider Hussain for his efforts for the promotion and development of the national game.
“Haider Hussain has recognised the importance of the role of the corporate sector in the promotion of the national game. The partnership that he has nurtured with Lahore Qalandars will serve hockey and Lahore Qalandars will find and bring out the best talent in hockey, as it has done in cricket,” he mentioned.
In a video message, Olympian Tauqeer Dar also appreciated the Lahore Qalandars’ initiative regarding the revival of the game, which was ruled by Pakistan for decades.
He encouraged young players from Lahore and its surroundings to also participate in the upcoming trials being held in Punjab to ensure that the best talent from the province gets showcased in the matches against Karachi.
“The enthusiasm of the players that came out in Karachi is unprecedented. Now, since Lahore Qalandars is set to hold trials in its own city, I request all the players in Lahore and its surroundings to actively participate in the trials,” he said.
Moreover, Olympian Rehan Butt, in his video statement, hailed Qalandars’ efforts and said that the franchise is playing a vital role in the revival of hockey by organising an inter-city hockey series and bringing forward new talent in Karachi and Lahore.
“Lahore Qalandars’ initiative is like giving oxygen to Pakistan hockey,” he stated. “Pakistan hockey needs such sponsors and we hope other franchises will also come forward for this cause.”
Pakistan Hockey Federation Vice President Nawabzada Haji Mir Lashkari Raisani met the players of Sindh and Balochistan that were participating in the trials and presented them with jerseys of Lahore Qalandar.
On this occasion, he applauded how the Lahore-based franchised has taken up the challenge of restoring the national game amid an unprecedented economic crisis.
“Standing with the federation is a commendable move, and the Lahore Qalandars’ interest in hockey is the result of the efforts of PHF President Brigadier Retired Khalid Sajjad Khokhar and Secretary General Haider Hussain,” he said.
“Kudos to the federation’s president Brigadier Retired Khalid Sajjad Khokhar and Lahore Qalandar Chief Executive Atif Rana for the passion they showed towards bringing the youth back to the hockey stadiums.”
During the series between Lahore and Karachi’s hockey teams, the star pacer Shaheen Afridi will be the ambassador for Karachi, while Haris Rauf will be in Lahore’s camp.