Pakistan head coach Siegfried Aikman on Friday said the team’s players see some members of the Indian team as their role models.
Arch-rivals India and Pakistan face off in Pool A in the opening match of the Asia Cup in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Monday.
“There is a lot of respect among Pakistan players for Indian hockey players. Some Indians are even their role models,” Aikman said ahead of the match.
“I saw the same respect in Indian players the other way around as well. This environment is a good one to have,” he added.
The prestigious Asian Cup is a World Cup qualifier. India, Japan, Pakistan, and host Indonesia are placed in pool A while Malaysia, South Korea, Oman and Bangladesh are grouped in pool B. “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.
With the Super 4s format introduced in Asia Cup, the prospect of India taking on Pakistan twice is also a possibility.
“It will be a tough tournament. There is no second chance or bypass for other teams to reach the World Cup,” the newly-appointed coach said. “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.
Speaking on the challenges in front of him as coach, Aikman said he hopes to revive Pakistan hockey. He also said 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.