With the Junior Asia Cup 2023 scheduled for May-June and considering the junior team has not played international matches in a long time, the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has contacted South Korea and Malaysia to play a test series.
It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan is currently ranked 16th in the FIH rankings and has not played in the last two Junior World Cups, and the effects have trickled down to the senior team, which is suffering from a shortage of new blood.
And due to the lack of new players, the senior team also faced humiliation as it failed to make the cut for the Olympics, World Cup, and FIH Pro League in recent years.
With the Junior Asia Cup also serving as the qualifying rounds for the Junior World Cup, PHF wants players to gain some international experience and has contacted Malaysia and South Korea to arrange a test series.
PHF Secretary Haider Hussain said they are waiting for the responses from Malaysia and South Korea and that matters will be clear in a few days.
Haider said that he knows the importance of international events for juniors as the senior team depends on them. Haider is working with the junior players since taking charge as PHF secretary.
Haider said that the PHF selection committee will pick players who are underage to play in the Junior Asia Cup and the World Cup, and are talented and skilled to make the team stronger.
Meanwhile, the junior team’s training is going on at DHA’s Lahore complex, after which they will come to Karachi to play the Qalandars Hockey Series.
The former international player and the junior team’s newly appointed head coach, Asif Ahmed, said that the training camp in Lahore is the first phase. The intensity of training will gradually gain momentum as the Asia Cup approaches.
Asif informed that players are getting trained in two sessions: before Sehri from 2am to 4am and in the evening before Iftar from 4pm to 6pm.
Apart from physical training, the players are working on different drills, including short, and long passes, dribbling, and dogging.
More importantly, the players are being trained individually as goalkeepers, penalty corner drag flickers, forwards, and defenders, all of whom are being coached by specialists in their respective areas.
The head coach informed the players will also play in practice matches that will be organised among them to observe how much they have learned and what their shortcomings are.
The National Junior Hockey championship will help to finalise the selection, training and preparation of the junior hockey team for the Asia Cup.