Pakistan hockey has been struggling for the past 17 years since winning the 1994 olympics. This long dry spell was finally broken in Nov 2010 when Pakistan won the Asian Games final and brought home gold. Between Nov 2010 and now, things have been looking up for the Pakistan hockey team. Their performance in the Azlan Shah Cup 2011 has been very good despite a couple of losses. The win against India provided the much needed pick-up for the nation after losing the cricket world cup semi-final against India. Today, once again, after beating the host Malaysia in the semi-finals on Saturday, the Pakistan hockey team entered the arena to play against Australia in the final of the 19th Sultan Azlan Shah cup.
The Australians made their intentions clear early in the game that they mean serious business. About twelve minutes into the game, Australia drew first blood when Ciriello scored the first goal on a penalty corner. For the next 20 minutes, Pakistan worked hard to settle the score and after missing 2 penalty corners, Sohail Abbas lived up to his reputation and tied the match by scoring on a penalty corner. At the end of the first half, the score remain tied at 1-1.
The second half started in a manner similar to the first with aggressive attacks by both teams and then Glenn Turner tilted the balance in Australia’s favor by making the score 2-1. Pakistan didn’t allow the Australians to rejoice for long and within 10 minutes of Australia’s second goal, Rehan Butt scored to equalize the game 2-2. Both teams fought tooth and nail to secure the victory with another goal but didn’t succeed and the game went into overtime.
It was do or die time now and both teams acted accordingly. Pakistan saved two penalty corners and an open shot but the third penalty corner sealed Australia’s victory when Ciriello scored the winning goal.
Every loss is difficult and so was losing today’s final, but the team’s performance in the tournament and particularly in the final predicts a very good future.
“Australia is the best team in the world, however it was very good to see the green-shirts perform brilliantly against them and took the game into extra-time, which frankly I didn’t expected from them” commented Pakistan hockey legend Samiullah.
The glorious past of Pakistan hockey is a reminder of what we are capable of accomplishing. Pakistan won three olympics, three Champions trophies, four world cups and eight Asian games. All of this was done with style that can’t be matched; no other hockey playing nation has achieved two classic triples. A classic triple means winning the olympic, the world cup and the regional championship simultaneously. Pakistan won its first classic triple in the early 70s by winning the 1968 olympics, 1971 World Cup and the 1970 Asian Games. History repeated itself when Pakistan won the second classic triple by winning the 1982 Asian Games and the World Cup and the 1984 olympics.
Pakistan hockey has seen some tough times in the past years due to problems with hockey administration, weak team dynamics, coaching issues and almost non-existent public interest in the game. However, the tide seems to be turning now and all eyes are now on the 2012 London olympic games.