We stayed fo­cused through­out

Sportstar - - INTERVIEW MUHAMMAD RIZWAN SR - SHAYAN ACHARYA

Un­til a few weeks ago, Pak­istan’s chances of mak­ing it to the hockey World Cup looked bleak. With no money, the Pak­istan Hockey Fed­er­a­tion found it­self in a spot, but elec­tron­ics gi­ant Haier came to its res­cue.

Cap­tain Muham­mad Rizwan Sr, in an in­ter­view, made it clear that his side has had good prepa­ra­tion in La­hore even in these times of un­cer­tainty, but ad­mit­ted that it will miss the ser­vices of its pre­vi­ous head coach Roe­lant Olt­mans.

You will be play­ing a tour­na­ment in In­dia af­ter four long years. Is there a chal­lenge of play­ing here?

Play­ing in In­dia is al­ways a big chal­lenge. Fans from both coun­tries want their teams to win and ev­ery time we play, the en­tire coun­try pins its hopes on us. We are go­ing with a lot of hope and our tar­get is to play to our po­ten­tial and per­form well. If we put in our 110 per cent ef­fort, we can go far. The way we have trained, I am con­fi­dent of the team’s suc­cess.

Un­til a few days ago, there was un­cer­tainty over the team’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the World Cup. Did it have an im­pact on the team’s prepa­ra­tions?

Our job was to train, and I was hope­ful that we will fi­nally travel to In­dia for the World Cup. I had no doubt about that. I am grate­ful to our new spon­sor, Haier, for bail­ing us out. In such a grave sit­u­a­tion, they came for­ward and helped out Pak­istan hockey. I am re­ally grate­ful that they did so much for the na­tional game.

Well, such sit­u­a­tions do af­fect the team in gen­eral, but we held a meet­ing with play­ers at that time and asked them to stay fo­cused and not stop train­ing. I told them that it doesn’t mat­ter if we go [to In­dia] or not, but we should not give train­ing a miss and I am happy that we could main­tain that till the end. We had long train­ing ses­sions in La­hore, de­spite no clar­ity on whether we would be able to par­tic­i­pate in the World Cup.

Like you said, there was not much clar­ity. So how did you mo­ti­vate the team?

We told them that money is not ev­ery­thing; it is a mat­ter of pride to play for the mulk (coun­try). That is of great im­por­tance. It is true that we were go­ing through rough times, but we knew this will pass. As a se­nior player, I told the boys that ups and downs are quite com­mon and even drew ref­er­ence to In­dia. There was a time when even In­dian hockey was go­ing through a rough phase, but now they have again risen. Sim­i­larly, with the spon­sor com­ing in, even Pak­istan hockey has been able to over­come the sit­u­a­tion. I hope it will only go up from here. Our tar­get has been to stick around as a unit and fo­cus on our job. I ap­pre­ci­ate the boys for lis­ten­ing to me and be­ing to­gether dur­ing the tough time.

Who do you con­sider the favourite to win the World Cup?

Hockey has changed im­mensely and it is not just about In­dia and Pak­istan. Now, ev­ery team is a favourite and any­one can spring a sur­prise. Who­ever has a field day will win. There is no clear favourite.

AFP

Eye­ing glory: The Pak­istan skip­per says: “The way we have trained, I am con­fi­dent of the team’s suc­cess.”

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