ISLAMABAD: Pakistan hockey team head coach and manager Shahnaz Sheikh has termed preparations for the upcoming Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea up to the mark and is quite hopeful that the team will defend their title in style. “When the team was handed over to me, the players’ fitness level was quite questionable, but after only four-week training, the boys’ dedication and with my assistants’ help, I have managed to transform them and get more than satisfactory response from them. I am happy the way they are training hard in the camp; they will be able to improve their fitness,” he said on Tuesday.
To a question, he said there were injuries to some players. “Umar Bhutta has taken one-month rest due to stomach upset while Rizwan Senior has twisted his ankle, Liaqat Rasool’s father has passed away, Fareed has taken four-week leave due to hamstring. Now the total strength of the camp is at 32. Haseem Khan is expected to join the camp in the first week of June while Khalid Bhatti and Ali Shan are expected to be the part of the camp in next two or three days.” Shahnaz said he head successfully managed to transform players to play both classic and modern hockey and also gave top priority to goalkeeping department. “All four goalies are doing wonderfully well in the camp and I have also emphasised on short corners. I don’t want players to play long balls, instead I am focusing on short passes, which will help the players a great deal in tackling the opponents in competitive matches,” he maintained.
He said the camp would continue till June 15. “I must appreciate that the youngsters have learnt a lot while playing against the seniors and they are getting into shape with each passing day. The main objective of inviting the junior players to the camp was to give them much-needed exposure and provide them with an opportunity to gain experience. They are doing well, but to get into the national squad, they need a special effort.” He said he had spent four weeks with players and now he could easily describe they had gained almost 30-40 percent match fitness. “There is still a room for improvement and I am working tirelessly to help the country regain its lost glory. I am quite confident that due to my efforts, the players will be able to produce more than desired results,” he stated.
Former Olympian Shahnaz said the second phase of training was scheduled in Abbottabad. “But I have decided to continue training at the same venue. I have requested the PHF in this regard because I am more than satisfied with the facilities being provided by the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB). I am not sure the players will get same kind of facilities anywhere else and at that crucial stage, I can’t afford to take risk, as the players are shaping up well, that was the reason behind my decision preferring Pakistan Sports Complex to Abbottabad,” Shahnaz concluded.
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