France inflict further damage to Pakistan’s pride; Imran steps down

Imran followed the footsteps of the national selection committee which also resigned from their posts after Pakistan failed to qualify for the 2016 Games. — Photo courtesy FIH
KARACHI: Two days after their seeing their Olympic dreams go up in smoke, Pakistan failed to restore some pride when they went down 2-1 to France on Sunday to finish a lowly eighth at the Hockey World League Semi-finals in Antwerp.
Pakistan went into the match against France after a 1-0 loss to Ireland on Friday which saw their hopes of finishing fifth and earning a spot at next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro come to an end.
And it seemed they hadn’t really recovered from that heartbreak as France took the lead in the 13th minute through Simon Brisac-Martin.
Shahnaz Sheikh’s men looked completely out of sorts for large swathes of the match and the French doubled their advantage in the 30th minute through Hugo Genestet.
Tauseeq Ahmad pulled one back in the fourth quarter but it was too little too late for Pakistan whose captain Mohammad Imran stepped down following their latest defeat.
Imran followed the footsteps of the national selection committee, headed by chief selector Islahuddin Siddiqui, which also resigned from their posts after Pakistan failed to qualify for the 2016 Games. The coach of Pakistan’s junior team Kamran Ashraf also resigned from his post on Saturday.
There were also unconfirmed reports from Antwerp that head coach and manager, Shahnaz had also tendered his resignation.
In what appeared to be another attempt by the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) top officials to salvage the situation, Imran said in a statement that he was given an absolute autonomy in executing his responsibilities by the federation and he has informed the PHF about his decision.
“Players were given all the necessary facilities but they failed to perform,” he said, adding that it is time to allow youngsters to come forward and play their role.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed concern at the hockey team’s performance and PHF affairs after Pakistan were beaten by Ireland and squandered their last opportunity to play in the Olympics.
It is for the first time since the 1948 Olympics that Pakistan’s hockey team will not feature in the mega-event.
Pakistan, three-time Olympic gold medallists and four-time World Cup winners in the sport, needed to finish among the top five for getting any chance to qualify for the Olympics.
Pakistan, once a powerhouse in world hockey, also failed to qualify for the World Cup last year for the first time in the history of the event.
The spate of resignations appear to have been triggered by the formation of a five-member inquiry committee by the Prime Minister who has given the committee a week to submit a preliminary report with strong indications that an ad-hoc committee will be appointed to run hockey affairs.
The committee that includes former hockey heavyweights Colonel Mudassar Asghar, Shahbaz Ahmed and Khawaja Junaid and is headed by the secretary sports Ejaz Chaudhary will hold its first meeting on Monday.
Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2015
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