Pak hockey coach worried about acclimatisation


Karachi : Pakistan’s hockey coach Shahid Ali Khan is concerned about his players not getting enough time to acclimatise in Lille (France) before the start of the hockey World Cup Qualifiers Oct 31.

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Shahid, a former Olympian, believes that his charges will have to win a battle against the elements during what promises to be an early winter in northern France if they are to qualify for next year’s World Cup in India.

Pakistan is unlikely to face any fierce opposition in the World Cup Qualifiers but could have a tough time dealing with cold and wet conditions during what is seen as their most important assignment this year.

Pakistan is bracketed with Japan, Poland, Russia, France and Italy in the six-nation Qualifiers. Only the team winning the tournament will make the cut for the 12-nation World Cup to be played Feb 28-March 13 in New Delhi.

“My boys will not have much time to adapt to harsh weather conditions,” Shahid told ‘The News’ in an interview Tuesday.

“Our warm-up tour was scrapped because of visa delays and there is little hope that we will be able to play enough practice games before the tournament. Such setbacks can make the task a bit tough for us,” the Olympian added.

Pakistan was scheduled to undertake a tour of Europe during September-October and had planned to play eight matches in France, Poland and Belgium.

But the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) was forced to call off the tour after the French authorities informed them that they will take their time to issue the visas to the Lille-bound squad. Later, the PHF decided to send the team to Poland Oct 19 for a couple of matches and then a few warm-up games in Lille but now even that plan has been dropped because of further visa delays.

Now the team is expecting to get the visas Oct 22 and will leave for Lille the very next day. PHF officials are trying to line up a couple of warm-up games before their opening match against Italy Oct 31.

Lille is not bitterly cold in autumn but temperatures can plummet in November. It can also be quite rainy. The temperature went down to 4�C last week and could touch freezing point next month.

Shahid said that his boys have been training for the last two months in extremely hot weather in Lahore and need to spend some time in cooler climes.

“My boys know that it’s a very, very important event for Pakistan hockey,” he said.

“They know that we have to qualify for the World Cup at all cost because our hockey will receive a huge blow if we don’t. That is why I’m sure that they will give their best even in severe weather conditions.”