Indo-Pak hockey needs more focus

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Regular contact between India and Pakistan could improve the standard of hockey on both sides.

Updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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New Delhi:

The improving Indo-Pak relations could be a blessing for sports, not just because India-Pakistan contests specially in cricket are highly saleable and anticipated, but also for hockey, where it seems more regular contact could improve the standard of the game on both sides. Lahore's Star Hockey Club was at the 14th Lal Bahadur Shashtri Tournament in Delhi last week and though they didn't make it to the semi-finals, for most of the team it was just nice to be back in India. Teams from Pakistan were a regular feature at Indias tournament till a few years ago. "It's the second time that I have come to India. I came here in 1990 and we feel very much at home over here. The culture and the people are the same, we don't feel like outsiders like we do in Europe or Africa. We are after all the same people," said Muhammad Mansoor Ul-Haq, Coach, Star Hockey Club, Pakistan. India and Pakistan have squared off in international hockey quite a few times this year and most believe that greater contact, especially at the junior and club level will help both countries rediscover their rich hockey tradition. "The more hockey we play, the more experience we are going to get. There should be more domestic competition," said Muhammad Sarwar, Captain, Star Hockey Club. Losing sheen Hockey in both countries can certainly do with some improvement. India may have won 8 Olympic golds but the last of those was in 1980. Their last World Cup win was in 1975 and we've never won the elite six nation Champions Trophy. Pakistan are maybe just a little better off, but even their last major glory was in 1994 when they won the World Cup and the Champions Trophy. Their last Olympic title was in Los Angeles in 1984. Both India and Pakistan also face off in the Olympic Qualifiers for Athens in March next year and players on both sides of the border know that the real test is not getting the better of each other but of bringing back Asia's dominance in hockey.

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