Follow the example of India to recover, FIH President Tayab advises Pakistan

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Tayyab Ikram, head of the International Hockey Federation (FIH), stated on Sunday that Pakistan should "follow India's model" in order to recover from its recent downturn. Pakistan, the winner of four World Cups, has failed to make the cut for the current tournament being held in India.

"Pakistan is an important stakeholder. If you see at recent tournaments, the Pakistan-India match is still the world's best property. As general secretary and chief executive of Asian Hockey (earlier), that property was with me in the Asia Cup and the Champions Trophy. I know the value of that," Ikram, who was raised in Macau but was born in Pakistan, stated at a news conference.

"There is always assistance from the global governing body. I remember I was involved in the launch of the Indian hockey project, the India-specific project of the FIH. I will be happy to launch such a project for Pakistan but there should be a willingness from their side. They should join the journey."

In order to improve the level of hockey in the nation, the FIH created the "Promoting Indian Hockey" programme in 2007. At the time, the game was losing popularity in India. India hosted the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi after the project was further extended.

"We don't have to go far, 2010 and 2022. If you don't need to really follow many different models, just follow the model that Hockey India did," When asked what the FIH can do to assist Pakistan, where the sport has been in decline for several years, Ikram said.

"(It was) consistent and professional approach and high-performance inputs that our athletes have been practicing for decades. Change the whole landscape, change the mindset, and you go for it and India won a bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics. This does not happen in two days. So, it is the way. We have a great experience to share with best practice if you are willing to take it."

Ikram said that the FIH was researching how penalty corner hit regulations may be changed to increase the safety of the opposing players while making it clear that the organisation was not considering slowing down the ball's pace after a drag flick.

"It is under study. The priority for us is the players' safety and we are working on it. We are going to start with some experimentation on that. It is particularly on the safety issue of our players. The main thing is regarding the high intensity and the speed of the ball, the speed developed by the drag flick. We are not reducing the speed (of the ball) but trying to provide a little bit more time for defenders to react."

Later, he said that adding an additional touch or two before the ball reaches the circle would be the answer.

"Our problem is the ball being sent with that high speed in the crowded area. It is better if the rusher has more time to have a clear vision (of the ball) or for a player who is on the wrong foot to be on the front foot."

Ikram stated that there are now just 16 teams competing in the World Cup, and there are no plans to add more.

The top FIH official remarked, "There is no such plan for the senior World Cup; we may do it in the junior World Cup."

He said that the Youth Olympics' Hockey5 format was not in competition with any other formats and will remain.

"FIH is trying to maximize all formats," he said.

He said that offers to host further competitions have been made by Hockey India and the Odisha government.

"We earlier had a proposal from Hockey India to hold another special tournament. There is another proposal from Odisha that they would like to have another tournament. It is still not official as the proposal is coming from them. The window is congested but we are not discouraging any national federation from having any invitational tournament. The Sultan Azlan Shah is continuing just like the Sultan of Johor Cup. FIH is ready to accommodate those requests."

Ikram said when asked about the Hockey India League, which the nation's federation is attempting to resuscitate this year: "There is already some discussion to find the window and we don't have any update on that. We have not got a formal proposal from Hockey India. But the professional way it (HI) was held in the last two or three editions gave a big boost. But now, let us see how it will combine with the Pro League because at the end of the day you need athletes. So, we are on this question but we are still waiting for the proposal (from HI)."

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