Asian Champions Trophy: Pakistan hockey team cherishes return to India | Hockey News – Times of India


CHENNAI: The tag of ‘tension’ invariably hangs over anything that has to do with India and Pakistan. But it’s not for nothing that the sport is considered a powerful tool to break barriers.

The Pakistan men’s hockeyteam, which has travelled to Chennai to battle for top honours in the Asian Champions Trophy (ACT), is feeling at home, at least at first glance.

The Pakistan contingent was accorded a warm welcome on arrival on Tuesday night, with players and staff in good spirits even after a tiring journey.
With the tournament organisers going out of their way to ensure Chennai becomes a home away from home for the travelling teams, Pakistan cannot wait to take the field in India for the first time in five years. The last time a senior Pakistan side played in India was in Bhubaneswar during the 2018 World Cup.

On the eve of Pakistan’s ACT opener against Malaysia, the team’s coach Muhammad Saqlain had only good things to say about India and their hockey culture.
“I had played the 2005 Champions Trophy in Chennai, where I was the captain. It does not matter if we are coming to India after five or 10 years. We really like to play in India,” Saqlain told TOI after a practice session on Wednesday.
“There is a wonderful crowd here. Be it in hockey or cricket, Pakistan have always performed well in Chennai,” added Saqlain.

The team was at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium early in the morning to get a feel of the turf, even though their scheduled practice was in the evening. Having underperformed in recent years, Pakistan have picked a squad packed with youngsters.
“In modern hockey, if you stick to the game plan and are skillful, seniority does not matter. But some seniors must be there in the squad. It is a nice combination of seniors and juniors. I hope that we are finally moving in the right direction,” said Saqlain.
Talking about the much-anticipated India-Pakistan round-robin contest next Wednesday, Saqlain said: “It is a different game. India and Pakistan are known for the attacking hockey that they play. The coaches of top teams like Holland and Germany love to watch India and Pakistan play,” he said, adding: “I believe that India and Pakistan should play more matches against each other as they will help the teams take their games to the next level.”

Coach happy with tight schedule
A day after three teams – Malaysia, South Korea and Japan – took a dig at the scheduling of the ACT, Saqlain welcomed the move to have the continental tournament a month before the Asian Games.
“We are working to find out who our key players will be going forward. The ACT is a dress rehearsal for the Asian Games. I would like to thank the FIH (International Hockey Federation) for providing us with this tournament,” Saqlain added.


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