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