PHF to rebuild national side for 2010 World Cup in India

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Lahore, Sep 3 (UNI) The Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) took a big step towards rebuilding the national side for the 2010 World Cup when they overlooked several senior players for a four-nation hockey tournament in Germany, following a humiliating eighth position finish in the Beijing Olympic Games last month.

The national selectors ignored a number of experienced players including defender Zeeshan Ashraf, who captained Pakistan in Beijing, and forward Rehan Butt, midfielders Mohammad Saqlain, Adnan Maqsood and goalie Salman Akbar while naming a 37-man provisional squad for next month's Hamburg Masters.

It seems like the start of a major rebuilding phase, two years before the World Cup to be held in New Delhi.

However, a top Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) official made it clear that the senior players have not been axed.

''We are certainly planning a rebuilding phase in a bid to get ready for the next World Cup and Olympic Games,'' PHF secretary Asif Bajwa was quoted as saying by 'The News'.

''But that doesn't mean that some of the senior players who will not be playing in the Hamburg Masters have been dropped. We have actually rested them after taking them in confidence,'' he added.

Pakistan flopped miserably in Beijing where they lost to lower-ranked teams like Great Britain and New Zealand to finish eighth, their worst finish in Olympic history.

The former Pakistan international said by inducting new players in the squad for the Hamburg Masters, the PHF also wants to give international exposure to several of the country's Under-21 players, who will be featuring in next year's Junior World Cup to be jointly hosted by Malaysia and Singapore.

''We have to plan for the future to ensure that things get better for us,'' Bajwa said.

The selectors initially picked 39 players for the camp to be held in preparation for the Hamburg Masters but two of them -Waqas Akber and Haider Abbas- expressed their inability to take part in the trials.

The two young forwards, who played in the Beijing Olympics wanted to proceed to Europe to play professional league there and the PHF decided to release them from national duty.

The other 37 players will assemble at Karachi's Hockey Club on September 5 to train for the Hamburg Masters.

The four-nation event will feature the newly-crowned Olympic champions Germany, Malaysia and Belgium. The camp will conclude on September 30 after which the national team will fly out for the Hamburg quadrangular which will get underway from October 3.

Following the Beijing debacle, Pakistan's head coach Khawaja Zakauddin and his deputy Naveed Alam decided to quit. The PHF is yet to name a new management for the national senior team.

Bajwa said the PHF has decided to appoint national junior team officials as the management for the Hamburg-bound squad.

That means former Olympian Jahangir Butt, who heads the national junior team management, will be the head coach while ex-Olympians Danish Kaleem and Kamran Ashraf will his deputies for the Hamburg event.

Preliminary squad: Goalkeepers : Nasir Ahmed, Imran Shah, Imran Butt, Waseem Ahmed.

Defenders : Kashif Ali, Mohammad Atiq, Mohammad Imran, Imran Abbas, Mohammad Khalid, Adnan Javed.

Midfielders : M Irfan, Khurram Shahzad, Kashif Javed, Zaheer Ahmed, Rana Asif, Rashid, Fareed Ahmed, Aamir Shahzad, Rashid Minhas.

Forwards : Waqas Sharif, Adeel Hussain, Hassan Akhtar, Inayat Ullah, M Tofiq, Rana Umair, Khurram Shahzad, Azlan Khan, Shakeel Abbasi, Shabbir Khan, Haseem Khan, Shafqat Rasool, M Zubair, Shahbaz Akhtar Ali, M Rizwan, Nasir Shah, M Imran.

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