Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) selection committee on Wednesday announced a 16-member hockey squad for the Asian Games scheduled on November 12-27 in the Chinese city of Guangzhou.
PHF selection committee, headed by former Olympian Hanif Khan, had also recalled penalty corner specialist and world-record holder hockey star Sohail Abbas in the national squad for this month’s Asian Games. Zeeshan Ashraf, full-back, will lead the outfit as captain while Muhammad Imran will be his assistant, according to PHF officials.
Goal keeper Salman Akbar has also been included in the team.
Pakistani hockey team is aiming at winning the Asian Games gold medal after ending in a disappointing sixth position in last month’s Commonwealth Games and in the last position in the World Cup held earlier this year in New Delhi of India.
Pakistan, once a motivating force in field hockey, has failed to win any medals since the World Cup in 1994 and the only gold medal it won at the Asian Games came in the 1990 when the Asian Games was held in China.
In the last Asian Games in Doha, Pakistan lost to China in the semifinals competing for the bronze medal.
Abbas, a 35-year-old player who holds the world record for most goals with 306, had quit international hockey matches in 2004, but members of PHF selection committee have pinned hopes on him in a bid to boost Pakistan’s hockey fortunes.
Because of the importance of the Asian Games, PHF selection committee had once again decided to use senior players like Sohail Abbas, Waseem Ahmad, Zeeshan Ashraf and Salman Akbar.
“Obviously we are hoping they will deliver the results for us in the Asian Games and if we do manage to win the gold medal it will guarantee us a direct spot in the 2012 Olympics in London,” said Chief of PHF selection committee Hanif.
The men’s hockey event of the Asian Games will take place from Nov 15 to 25. The ten participating teams have been divided into two pools. Pool “A” consists of South Korea, China, Malaysia, Singapore and Oman while Group “B” comprises Pakistan, India, Japan, Bangladesh and Hong Kong (China).
The Green-Shirts (referring to the Pakistani hockey team) will play its first match against Hong Kong on November 17, the second against Japan on 18, the third against India on 20, and the last against Bangladesh on 21.
Classification matches and semifinals will be played on 23 while position matches and final match will be played on Nov 25.