Rival PHF factions unite training camp after government intervenes – Sport

ISLAMABAD: At last, common sense prevailed with the two rival factions of the Pakistan Hockey Federation deciding to end the separate training camps of the national team with an agreement reached that the players will attend the camp underway in Islamabad after the government brought them to the table.

The training camp will be supervised by Dutchman Roelant Oltmans, who will also head a three-member selection committee that will finalise the squad for next month’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia.

The selection committee will also comprise the Pakistan Sports Board director general and a representative of the Pakistan Olympic Association, Prime Minister’s coordinator on Youth Affairs Rana Mashood Ahmed Khan said after he listened to both rival groups at the PM Office on Thursday.

Mashood, who was empowered by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to resolve the issues surrounding the PHF, said matters pertaining to the leadership of the country’s hockey governing body — with one faction led by Tariq Bugti and the other by Shehla Raza — will be decided in the next two days.

The government’s intervention to resolve the PHF matter comes a day after the International Hockey Federation (FIH) had written a letter where it had set a deadline of Thursday to decide on one team that would represent Pakistan at the Azlan Shah Cup.

Oltmans had been appointed by the Bugti group while Shehla’s group was holding a camp in Karachi and had announced a 20-member team for the Azlan Shah Cup.

“Once the team is announced by the selection committee, a camp will be set up in Islamabad ahead of the team’s departure for Malaysia on April 2,” Mashood said in a video message.

“We will resolve the issue of the two factions in the next two days,” he added, while lamenting the downfall of the national game which he attributed to mishandling of hockey affairs by the PHF. “There is a pressing need for a new policy to restore Pakistan hockey to its former standing in the game.”

Alongside Mashood, meetings with both rival groups were also attended by PSB director general Shahid Islam, Higher Education Commission director Javed Memon and Olympian Khawaja Junaid.

Bugti, who was nominated as the PHF chief by interim Prime Minister Anwarul Haq Kakar before getting the required votes from the PHF Congress, presented his case alongside the secretary general of his faction, Rana Mujahid.

Shehla, who was accompanied by the secretary general of her faction Haider Hussain, argued that the interim PM had no power to nominate the PHF chief and was elected by the Congress.

Despite the training camp being held by Bugti’s faction getting the nod by Mashood, a government officer close to the situation said that “nothing had been decided yet”.

“Either the PM can decide which faction to go with or he can reject both and opt for a new PHF chief,” he told Dawn.

Another official, highlighting Pakistan’s rapid decline in international hockey — the national team has failed to qualify for three successive Olympics — said it was time for change.

“The power-hungry people at the helm of the PHF have destroyed the national game,” the official told Dawn. “And therefore, those who have had any role in the PHF during the last two decades should be barred from any future role.”

Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2024

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