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Talent, pain, hope: Young Abdul Shahid mirrors the state of Pakistan hockey | Hockey News – Times of India

BHUBANESWAR: The decline of Pakistan hockey is a shared pain of every genuine hockey fan, and it becomes excruciating when you see talent but not results. 16-year-old Abdul Hanan Shahid is a classic example in that context, coupled with what has been another uninspiring international outing for the Pakistan team. They haven’t made it to the quarterfinals of the ongoing Junior World Cup in Bhubaneswar.
At Abdul’s home, hockey is the unanimous subject 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 1964 Olympics silver medallist Afzal Manna, who was his grandfather’s brother. Abdul’s father, Mohammad Shahid, played for the junior Pakistan team. That legacy has passed on to Abdul and his cousin Azfar Yaqoob, who is a member of the senior Pakistan team.
The family also runs a club in Lahore named Pak Heroes .

(Photo courtesy – Hockey India)
“We are fortunate to improve at a younger age, like 14-15, whereas most kids become good players at 18-20 years of age,” said centre-forward Abdul as he sat down to talk with TimesofIndia.com in Bhubaneswar.
“Hockey is something that our family often discusses because of our roots in the sport,” added Abdul, who credited his quick rise to picking up the stick at the age of four.
After clearing his 10th standard school exams, Shahid shifted from the famous Crescent School in Lahore to the Government College. This Junior World Cup incidentally is his first taste of international hockey.
Abdul is also the captain of the Punjab A team, and his goal-scoring prowess makes him a top draw at most age-group domestic tournaments in Pakistan, where he often wins the ‘Player of the tournament’ award.

(Photo courtesy – Hockey India)
As the topic shifted from Abdul the player to Pakistan at the Junior World Cup, the changing expression from one of pride to disappointment was easily discernible on the young striker’s face.
Pakistan didn’t bow out of contention without a fight. They made Argentina sweat, but the more purpose exhibited by the stickwork of the South Americans edged out the Pakistan colts 4-3.
But the sting that went missing from Pakistan’s play in their opening pool game against Germany, who won 5-2, remained the difference between them finishing in the top two of Pool D and the third place that they eventually achieved.
Their only win (3-1) in the pool stage was registered against minnows Egypt.
“There are 4-5 guys in our team between 16 and 18 years (of age), young talent that this team was built on. We have little international exposure, because of which we couldn’t do well. We had bigger expectations, had the support for it as well. Whatever could be done in preparation was done. I would say we were unlucky,” Abdul told TimesofIndia.com.
“If you see our journey, we missed a lot of goal scoring opportunities. Had that not happened, we could have been in the quarterfinals. But we will learn from these mistakes. If we get international exposure, I believe Pakistan can climb higher in the rankings,” Abdul added, pointing at the senior team’s decline in rankings.
Pakistan’s senior team has slipped in FIH rankings to No. 18, which is blamed largely on their decision to withdraw from the FIH Pro League in 2019. Had they played, their rank could have been higher and it would have also pitted them against a less-skilled team than 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.” Abdul stated.
Abdul’s youthful exuberance perhaps made him forget that Pakistan failed to qualify for the last two editions of the Olympics and the 2014 World Cup. The nosedive in rankings was an aftermath.
In their next effort as part of the course-correction, the Pakistan Hockey Federation has roped in Dutchman Seigfried Aikman as their foreign coach. Aikman coached Japan to the 2018 Asian Games gold, but left that job after an average show at the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year.
The period when Pakistan hockey flourished and produced legends until the early 2000s was when department hockey and their domestic structure was in its best health. Most departments or public-sector undertaking companies have since shelved teams with no plans to revive them as such.
The drop in opportunities to make a career in hockey, like Abdul’s predecessors in the family, has hurt Pakistan. But the young boy remains optimistic.
“PHF called the junior and senior players sometime back and told (us that) they will make categories and hockey will be governed regionally. The regions will pay their (players’) salaries. For example, Odisha in India. It will make a team and the state will have 30-40 players with different age-group categories. That is PHF’s new initiative,” he said.
“As far as a league is concerned, one in February or March 2022 is being talked about.”
A disappointing JWC notwithstanding, Pakistan will leave Indian soil with some good memories as well as lessons learnt. After all, this was the first visit to India for each playing member in the Pakistan squad.
“We came with an objective to at least play the semifinals. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do that. So we lost a bit of our confidence. But we are here to learn,” Abdul further told TimesofIndia.com.
The hospitality every Pakistan team visiting India has enjoyed is often talked about.
The senior Pakistan team experienced that during the 2018 World Cup in Odisha. This time it was the turn of the juniors.
“I want to thank Odisha. We have been supported well. Whatever we needed, we have been provided with more than that.
“The way we have been welcomed, it feels like we are in Pakistan.” Abdul said.

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