Pakistan Hockey Federation keen to improve relations with India

Asif Bajwa, the new secretary general, hopes to lift the federation out of an ongoing financial crisis.

Representative Image: The Pakistan Hockey Federation hopes to conduct its professional league with foreign players in the future.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Asif Bajwa, the newly appointed Pakistan Hockey Federation secretary general, is keen to revive bilateral engagements with India.

Bajwa, who assumed his new role last month, is hopeful of lifting the sports body out of an ongoing financial crisis.

“It would be wrong to say I have had a chance to talk to anyone on the issue of bilateral hockey ties with India. But that is my main goal and I am very hopeful the ice will break soon between the two countries in hockey,” he told PTI on Sunday at the Sattar Edhi hockey stadium in Karachi.

“The way I look at it, if we convince them to play, then it would give a big boost to hockey in Pakistan and also help us overcome our financial crunch,” he added.

The last time India and Pakistan played a bilateral Test series was back in 2006. They have only been meeting in multilateral sports events ever since due to political tensions between them.

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Bajwa is believed to have good ties with Indian sports administrator Narinder Batra, who heads the Indian Olympic Association and the International Hockey Federation (FIH). Batra is also a former president of Hockey India.

Open to neutral venues

Bajwa said he would try to have talks with Batra soon on the possibility of having a bilateral series. “If we can play like in the past on a home-and-away basis [it would be] perfect but we would also not rule out a neutral venue,” he said.

Bajwa said his focus would be to make hockey financially self-sufficient in his country. “It is a great sign that we have managed to hold the National hockey championship after two years here. The way forward for us is to have at least eight to nine domestic events annually and also to eventually have our professional league hockey in the country with foreign players,” he said.

According to Bajwa, Pakistan would pay a fine to the FIH soon for not sending the team to the FIH Pro-Hockey League earlier this year. “It was a mistake because the FIH Pro-Hockey League is the future of the sport and it will benefit us a lot. We still have a small window of opportunity available to us to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games but we have to wait and see what the FIH lines up for us,” he said.

“But frankly speaking, I am already thinking ahead of preparing strong squads for the junior World Cup, senior World Cup, and the 2024 Olympic Games,” he added.