Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Pakistan is the most successful team in the Hockey World Cup with four titles. However, much to the astonishment of the fans, they are not among 16 teams in Odisha competing for the ongoing marquee event. It was for the second time in three editions. 

The Men in Green were once masters of hockey. However, they had also to suffer the ignominy of not qualifying for the last two Olympics. The game has declined in the country to a great extent and Pakistan’s ranking is plummeting over the years. Now they are down to No. 16 in the world ranking and looking down the barrel.

The situation of the game is now dire in the country. The situation has stooped so low that Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) is not able to pay coach Siegfried Aikman for over eight months. Subsequently, the Dutch coach, who guided Japan to their maiden Asian Games gold in 2018, had no option but to return to the Netherlands. 

Aikman had joined as the coach of the Pakistan team in December 2021 with a contract till 2026. However, he flew back to the Netherlands in December 2022 for not getting his salary. 

As per Aikman, there are two main reasons behind the decline of Pakistan hockey. 

“First, Pakistan hockey is living in the past. The whole system is controlled by the old Olympians who are very dominant. They were successful 30-40 years ago but are stuck in that time. That needs to change,” said Aikman.

“Secondly, Pakistan should start grassroots development of coaches, introducing hockey as it is played now. The knowledge about global hockey is very poor in Pakistan and they need to activate the modern version of the game. That is something cultural and takes a long time to flourish. The good thing for Pakistan is that they can learn from India. Don’t live in the past and create modern hockey,” he added.

Aikman advised Pakistan to follow the Indian model which helped the Men in Blue to finish at the Olympic podium in Tokyo less than two years ago.

He was also effusive in his praise for Odisha to extend their supporting hand for the development of the game in India.

“The game also changed in India due to Odisha. The support they provide to hockey is really tremendous. That creates a great atmosphere for the game. Now, there are 400 qualified coaches in India and it is even increasing over years. Pakistan should follow this model as hockey needs Pakistan and Pakistan needs hockey,” Aikman signed off.