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Pakistan hope on International XI visit to revive hockey

Pakistan is hopeful that the two exhibition hockey matches involving an International XI side and Pakistan XI will help in reviving the sport in the troubled nation.

Netherlands’ legendary penalty corner specialist Paul Litjens and former player Rob Lathouwers were the first foreign players to reach Karachi yesterday for the two matches to be held here and Lahore on January 19 and 21.

The Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) is pinning hope on the matches to revive interest in field hockey and bring in sponsorship in the sport, which has faced difficult times in recent years.

“This visit by the international players is very important for Pakistan hockey,” PHF secretary Shahbaz Ahmed said.

“We are hoping this visit will prove to be a breakthrough in our efforts to get more funds into hockey and also convince the (International Hockey Federation) FIH to allow Pakistan to host a small international event this year,” he said.

The batch of international players belonging to Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Spain and Argentina include Phil Burrows, Juan Escarre (playing coach), Grant Schubert, Don Prior and Kyle Pontifex, who are scheduled to arrive today.

While 13 players are set to arrive by different flights tomorrow including Rob Reckers, Roderick Weusthof, Hidde Turkstra, Roc Oliva, David Alegre, Agustin Bugallo, Nahuel Salls, Diego Paz, Benni Wess, Justus Scharowsky, Floris Jan Bovelander, Christian Blunk and Philip Meulenbroek.

Two players — Matthijs and Santi Freixa — will arrive on Friday.

The PHF has also scheduled a Hall of Fame event in which some former greats will be honoured.

“I know Pakistan hockey has been having difficulty keeping up with the rest of the world but we need Pakistan to be among the top because of their history and contribution to the sport,” Bovelander said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s former star penalty corner specialist Sohail Abbas is still uncertain for the matches as he has demanded appearance money equivalent to foreign players.

“We are still trying to convince him to even captain the Pakistan side and be in the Hall of Fame as we don’t have enough funds to pay him what he is demanding,” Shahbaz said.