Everyone must have heard of Pakistan’s last minute – and dramatic retreat from the first FIH Pro League, a field hockey championship held in eleven nations.
The retreat is a great dismay for everyone involved, including the participating teams, the non-participating teams – who may have had an attack on Pakistan’s square – national associations, event organizers and fans.
So far, the only party we do not yet hear about is the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF). It is high time that the Federation explained the reason for the decision to first opt for participation and then suddenly resign, calling it “inevitable circumstances”.
Undoubtedly, the Pro League is an innovative boost of new energy that is fed into the world of hockey. But it would never be perfect for everyone.
The PHF should recognize that the costs of the league over a period of four to eight years outweighed the benefits.
A key feature in the Pro League was bringing games directly to the fans. It was clear from the beginning that Pakistan was unable to host home matches. This fact alone put the Federation on the back foot. Compared to the other teams, the Pakistani Ice Hockey Association would have had no earnings.
Instead, the costs would have been higher, and in some cases more than doubled, including travel and subsistence and general expenses. There was a lack of “home advantage” (in most games even a disadvantage). Not to mention that Pakistan’s participation in 16 games in Asia was the only team from Asia that would have taken much longer distances than other trips.
Since the PHF is the worst-rated team in the tournament, the Pro League would never have considered it a serious and realistic method for the Olympics qualification.
Well, I’m the most optimistic Pakistani fan out there. However, anyone serious about securing an Olympic position in the Federation would have recognized that the Pro League is not the most reliable method of qualifying for the OQs against nations such as Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands. This is all the more the case with our Asian colleagues like India and Malaysia in the Hockey Series final, lower-ranking teams and ten-day tournaments at a venue.
The choice was obvious, the decision was easy, but the strategy was not there. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics will be held in July and August. Pakistan’s ice hockey teams have participated in all Summer Olympics since 1948, with the exception of the last Rio 2016 edition.
It is still possible to reach the 2020 question. Could be. But if we do not qualify twice for the Summer Olympics, it will be a major setback for our national sport.
How do we qualify? Well, what you need to know about the #RoadToTokyo for the Pakistani hockey:
- Twelve countries will participate in field hockey at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
- So far, only one team has qualified – Japan.
- Four places go to champions from the remaining continents (Africa, Europe, Oceania, Pan America)
- The seven remaining seats will be awarded by the Olympic qualifiers under 14 participating teams
- Four of these 14 come from the Pro League, six from the Hockey Series Final.
- The remaining four places will be assigned to the next high-level teams based on FIH’s international rankings. This will happen around September 2019, once the Continental Master is decided
- If teams that have qualified from these tournaments have already qualified through continental championships, their seats will be allocated to the next highest team, according to the result of the Pro League and HSF, according to the FIH ranking
- Pakistan is currently ranked 12th in the world. If it maintains its position, it is surprisingly realistic that six to eight nations could qualify otherwise, which could give Pakistan an OQ place
- Of course, if it falls under # 12, the situation will change. Therefore, Pakistan must strive to maintain its ranking from now on until D-Day, or better still, by finding alternative competitive opportunities.
- Once the 14 teams have decided on the OQs, they will compete in pairs (two games against one opponent). For each pair, there will be a winner for a total of seven winners traveling directly to Tokyo
So it’s not all over for Pakistan yet. The PHF relies on its leaderboard to qualify.
Strategy and vision are two skills that the PHF has barely demonstrated in recent years. But now is the time to prepare for a comeback.