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Talent, pain, hope: young Abdul Shahid reflects the state of Pakistani hockey | Hockey News

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BHUBANESWAR: The decline of Pakistani hockey is a shared pain of every true hockey fan, and it gets unbearable when you see talent but no results. 16-year-old Abdul Hanan Shahid is a classic example in that context, coupled with what was another uninspiring international outing for the Pakistani team. They failed to reach the quarter-finals of the ongoing Junior World Cup in Bhubaneswar.
At Abdul, hockey is the unanimous topic when it comes to discussions around the dinner table. And that’s largely because there’s plenty of hockey background and heritage in Abdul’s family.
Abdul comes from the family of Afzal Manna, the silver medalist of the 1964 Olympics, who was his grandfather’s brother. Abdul’s father, Mohammad Shahid, played for the junior Pakistani team. That legacy has been passed on to Abdul and his cousin Azfar Yaqoob, who is a member of the senior Pakistani team.
The family also runs a club in Lahore called Pak Heroes.

(Photo Courtesy – Hockey India)
“We are lucky that we get better at a younger age like 14-15, while most kids become good players at the age of 18-20,” said centre-forward Abdul as he sat down to talk to TimesofIndia.com in Bhubaneswar.
“Hockey is something our family often talks about because of our roots in the sport,” added Abdul, who attributed his rapid growth to picking up the stick at the age of four.
After passing his 10th standard school exams, Shahid transferred from the famous Crescent School in Lahore to Government College. This World Junior Championships is also his first introduction to international hockey.
Abdul is also the captain of the Punjab A team, and his scoring ability makes him a top player in most domestic age group tournaments in Pakistan, where he often wins the ‘Player of the Tournament’ award.

(Photo Courtesy – Hockey India)
When the subject shifted from Abdul the player to Pakistan during the Junior World Cup, the changing expression from pride to disappointment was easy to see on the young striker’s face.
Pakistan was not without a fight. They made Argentina sweat, but the more purpose displayed by the South Americans’ stickwork saw the Pakistani foals out 4-3.
But the sting missing from Pakistan’s game in their opening group game against Germany, who won 5-2, remained the gap between them in the top two of Pool D and the third place they eventually took.
Their only win (3-1) in the group stage was against minnows Egypt.
“There are 4-5 guys in our team between the ages of 16 and 18 (age), young talent that this team is built on. We have little international exposure, so we couldn’t do well. We had higher expectations, had the support for. What could be done in preparation has been done. I would say we were unlucky,” Abdul told TimesofIndia.com.
“If you see our journey, we missed a lot of opportunities to score goals. If we hadn’t, we could have been in the quarter-finals. But we will learn from these mistakes. If we get international exposure, I think Pakistan will be higher can climb in the rankings,” Abdul added, pointing to the senior team’s decline in the rankings.
Pakistan’s senior team has dropped to number 18 in the FIH rankings, largely due to their decision to withdraw from the FIH Pro League in 2019. Had they played their rank could have been higher and also have placed them against a less-skilled team than the Netherlands in the Olympic qualifiers.
“Our downfall started when we withdrew from the FIH Pro League… We still deserve to be in the top 10.” declared Abdul.
Abdul’s youthful exuberance may have made him forget that Pakistan had failed to qualify for the last two editions of the Olympics and the 2014 World Cup. The nosedive in the rankings was an aftermath.
In their next attempt as part of the course correction, the Pakistan Hockey Federation has brought in Dutchman Seigfried Aikman as their foreign coach. Aikman coached Japan to gold in the 2018 Asian Games, but left that job after an average showing at the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year.
The period when Pakistani hockey flourished and produced legends until the early 2000s was when department hockey and their domestic structure were in its best health. Most public sector departments or companies have since suspended teams with no plans to revive them as such.
The decline in hockey career opportunities like Abdul’s predecessors in the family has hurt Pakistan. But the boy remains optimistic.
“PHF once called the juniors and seniors back and told us that they will create categories and hockey will be governed regionally. The regions will pay their (player) salaries. For example, Odisha in India. It will form a team and the state will pay 30 -40 players with different age categories. That is the new initiative of PHF,” he said.
“As for a competition, there is talk of one in February or March 2022.”
Despite a disappointing JWC, Pakistan will leave Indian soil with some fond memories and lessons learned. After all, this was the first visit to India for any playing member of the Pakistani squad.
“We came with the goal of at least playing the semi-finals. Unfortunately we couldn’t do that. So we lost a bit of confidence. But we are here to learn,” Abdul further told TimesofIndia.com.
There is often talk of the hospitality enjoyed by every Pakistani team visiting India.
This was experienced by the senior team of Pakistan during the 2018 World Cup in Odisha. This time it was the turn of the juniors.
“I want to thank Odisha. We have been well supported. Whatever we needed, we got more than that.
“As we have been received, it feels like we are in Pakistan.” said Abdul.

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