LAHORE: The national selection committee, headed by former Olympian Manzoor Junior, has announced a 19-member Pakistan squad for the challenging Olympics-2020 qualifying round, to be played against world hockey giants Holland in Amsterdam on Oct 26 and 27. Rizwan Ahmad Senior has been named as captain.
Pakistan is currently placed at a poor 17th spot in the world hockey rankings but has been handed a very tough draw by FIH against third-placed Holland, mainly due to PHF not fulfilling its commitment of national team’s participation in the first Pro League early this year due to lack of funds.
It was due to this offense that FIH penalised Pakistan who went down from 13th to 17th place in world rankings and now face the formidable Holland in qualifiers.
Earlier, the national selection committee comprising Kaleemullah, Khalid Hameed and
Nasir Ali watched the one-day trials at the outer ground of the National Hockey Stadium. After watching 35 probables in the trials, chief selector Manzoor Junior announced the 19-member teams, including seven new players.
Muhammad Irfan as 19th player will join the national team in Germany, but currently he is facing some visa problems. Before competing against Holland, Pakistan will play two practice matches against Germany on Oct 22 and 23 before leaving for Amsterdam via road.
Manzoor Jr who was captain of the Pakistan team which won the gold medal at 1984 Olympics, said the strong Dutch team are a force to be reckoned. However, he hoped Pakistan would play its best game to book a place in Olympics which will be held in Tokyo, Japan in 2020.
He said the team was selected in consultation with head coach Khawaja Junaid and added that the boys are fit after attending the 40-day long training camp in Lahore.
It may be mentioned here that in their last clash, Holland thrashed Pakistan in the World Cup 2018 in India by 5-1.
Meanwhile, head coach Khawaja Junaid disclosed that seven new players have been included in the squad.
He said both the matches against Holland are of important nature as it is Pakistan’s last chance to qualify for the Olympic Games 2020.
Pakistan had failed to qualify for the last Olympic Games 2016 held in Brazil.
Rizwan Ahmad Senior (captain).
Goalkeepers: Amjad Ali, Waqar Ahmad.
Full-backs: Mubashar Ali, Imad Shakeel Butt, Rizwan Ali.
Half-backs: Moin Shakeel, Tasawar Abbas, Rashid Mahmood, Abu Bakar, Azfar Yaqoob.
Forwards: Ijaz Ahmad, Muhammad Irfan, Umar Bhutta, Rana Sohail, Rana Waheed, Ali Shan, Ghazanfar Ali, Immad Anjum.
Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2019