New Delhi, 20 May 2022: The stage is set for the Hero Asia Cup to kick off in Jakarta, Indonesia which will see the participation of top Asian countries. The prestigious tournament, set to begin on May 23rd, is a World Cup qualifier. India, Japan, Pakistan, and hosts Indonesia are placed in pool A while Malaysia, Korea, Oman, and Bangladesh are grouped in pool B.
Speaking ahead of the start of the Hero Asia Cup, the newly-appointed Pakistan Head Coach Siegfried Aikman, spoke on his team’s prospects and preparation for the tournament.
“I think it will be a tough tournament. There is no second chance or bypass for other teams to reach the World Cup. Apart from India, who have already qualified for the World Cup, it’s all or nothing for all the other teams. Hence, all of us have to go all out in the tournament,” he said.
In a mega battle, India will face off against Pakistan in Pool A match on Monday, 23rd May 2022. With the Super 4s format introduced in Hero Asia Cup, the prospect of India taking on Pakistan twice is also a possibility. On being asked about the relations between the two teams, Aikman opened up about the mutual respect among the players from the two nations.
“Players are very excited to be back to competition. They want to play against the best and are looking forward to the match against India,” Aikman said.
“There is a lot of respect among Pakistan players for India Hockey players. Some Indians are even their role models. I saw the same respect in Indian players the other way around as well. This environment is a good one to have,” he added.
Speaking on the challenges in front of him as Pakistan Coach, Aikman said that he hopes to revive Pakistan Hockey. He also opened up on how Pakistan players can take inspiration from Indian Hockey.
“World Hockey needs India and Pakistan to lead in the sport. India are doing well at the moment. But we need to revive ourselves, and I am hopeful I can do that here, and make Pakistan Hockey promising again. I want to develop a structure in the country where we can start building players at the grassroots so that in 10 years, we have a Pakistan team that can compete against the top teams,” he said.
“India Hockey Team is a big example for teams in Asia. They showed that you can come from very deep and reach far. It takes time, but if you do it consistently and bluntly that you will get there,” Aikman signed off.