KARACHI: Hockey legend Floris Jan Bovelander has suggested that a proper infrastructure and system should be developed for Pakistani players to improve the quality of the sport in Pakistan.
Bovelander, who is in Pakistan on an invitation from the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) for the Hall of Fame induction, reluctance to adopt changes in hockey is one of the reasons for the decline of the sport in Asian countries.
“Pakistan and India played same style of hockey. India noticed it 10 years ago and they are building their game for 10 years now. They picked up and they are back again. Pakistan should do the same, it will take a couple of years,” he said in an exclusive interview with this correspondent.
The veteran, who has played 241 international matches, said that while Pakistan wants to reclaim its former glory, the Hockey Federation needs to do a lot of hard work to do so.
“Hockey is developing...some countries have come up while other have gone down,” he said.
“Hopefully Pakistan will pick-up again and become one of the better teams. I think the spirit is Pakistan is good and I believe that hockey is still alive here. To become a good solid top team there might be some changes that are necessary,” he highlighted.
Emphasizing on the need to have proper infrastructure at the grass root level, the Atlanta Olympic gold medalist said the PHF should develop teams at different levels under the national team.
“You have 20 boys, let’s train with them and you get a good team. You need structure, you need good coaching, and it will take some time. You need to be patient,” he said.
“In general, in countries (like Pakistan), you have a national team but there is not much under the national team, so the whole structure of grass root and school hockey needs to be made popular again. The whole structure of getting to the top and nurturing the talent is something which is lacking as compared to countries that are at the top of the game,” he pointed out.
The former Dutch star also noted that Pakistan is not producing hockey heroes and that is the reason it has become difficult for people here to encourage youngsters to pick hockey.
“It is not just a competition; you need heroes, you need legends here. In my days there were Shahbaz, Tahir, and Sardar, so children started wanting to be like them. Building heroes is a must and competitions are just a step but they are good only if you have other good programmes as well,” Bovelander said.
He also highlighted the fact that hockey has changed in the last 30 years and Pakistan must catch up with steps taken by other countries to promote hockey.
“It is played on artificial pitches. The total pitches in Pakistan equal to the pitches only in my hometown in Holland," he said. "Young players should play on some decent pitches and be trained by good coaches.”
Bovelander also said that he’s happy to be in Pakistan once again.
“It is good to be back after twenty years...it is a good feeling. The atmosphere here is still the same, the welcome was overwhelming. It is good to back,” he commented.