Dutchman Siegfried Aikman is the pinnacle coach of the nationwide hockey staff since December 2021. Throughout this era, Pakistan has participated in some tournaments with blended outcomes. Aikman’s process has not been simple resulting from myriad issues. Eos sat down with the affable coach with roots within the Caribbean nation of Suriname to get his candid opinions about the place Pakistan hockey is headed. Excerpts from the interview…
Q. How did you come to teach hockey?
A. I used to play for a membership within the third tier of the Dutch League. Teaching fascinated me from the beginning. I used to be simply 16 after I began coaching kids at my membership. Quickly, I used to be doing teaching programs. I gained the highest Dutch qualification. Subsequent, it was the FIH programs. Right here too, I attained the highest qualification. I’m a FIH Excessive Efficiency Senior Coach in addition to a FIH Academy Coach and Educator. I’ve performed FIH’s excessive profile teaching programs. A few of them I carried out with Tayyab Ikram, who’s now the FIH president. Many coaches of the highest nationwide groups have been my college students.
I’ve been a full time coach since 2017 — 4 years with the boys’s nationwide staff of Japan and now Pakistan. I managed to information the Japanese staff to its biggest achievement, profitable gold on the 2018 Asian Video games.
Q. Then what made you’re taking the project with the Pakistan staff, which was languishing on the 18th place in world rankings?
A. I used to be born in 1959. Once I was rising up, Pakistan and hockey have been virtually synonymous, and remained so for an extended interval. Greater than the successes, we have been enamored by their artistry. The decline in hockey right here makes us unhappy. It’s my earnest need to see Pakistan reclaim its misplaced glory in hockey.
Pakistan Hockey has much more issues than simply developing with a profitable mixture. The nationwide staff’s Dutch coach throws mild on just some of them in an unique interview…
Q. So how has it been to date?
A. My first project was the Asian Champions Trophy in Bangladesh in December 2021. I joined the squad simply two days earlier than departure and did not know anybody. Khawaja Junaid was the staff’s head coach. We shared concepts. Pakistan have been unfortunate in each the semi-final and third place recreation, dropping to Korea 5-6 and India 3-4. My first impression was that the Inexperienced Shirts have been good in offensive play however there have been too many defensive lapses.
Then as head coach, my first project was the 2022 Asia Cup in Jakarta, Indonesia. Earlier than that, there was a coaching tour to Europe however, resulting from visa issues, I joined that camp late. That was additionally the primary time I spotted the choice committee’s function. Although I wanted their assist on the time, as I solely knew a number of gamers whom I had watched within the Junior World Cup and the Asian Champions Trophy, the committee solely gave us probables.
Then after taking a look at them for some days, I chosen the staff to which the committee made a few adjustments. The matches in Europe that we performed in Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain weren’t official internationals, however nonetheless the opposing groups principally comprised the very best out there expertise together with internationals and rising gamers.
Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain are ranked among the many high six in area hockey. Pakistan received a number of video games and in addition misplaced a number of. Our total efficiency was encouraging. It gave the boys confidence for the Asia Cup. The occasion carried nice significance, because it supplied three World Cup slots together with India, the World Cup hosts.
Q. What occurred within the Asia Cup then?
A. Being knowledgeable coach, I usually chorus from blaming luck. However in Jakarta we confronted a collection of unlucky occasions. We solely wanted a draw in opposition to Japan to make it to the semis, however misplaced 2-3 to them. Pakistan have been denied two objectives. One netted by Umar Bhutta was not given as one other participant had collided with the aim keeper. Nonetheless, probably the most talked about was the aim disallowed as a result of Pakistan had 12 gamers on the bottom on the time.
Even after Pakistan had performed all of the pool video games, they nonetheless had an opportunity. India and Pakistan have been stage on factors. India have been fortunate because the final pool match pitted them in opposition to minnows Indonesia they usually knew what to do. They received the match by 16 objectives to pip Pakistan for the semis on aim distinction. And we needed to accept fifth place.
Q. Subsequent have been the Commonwealth Video games in England. What occurred there?
A. On the Commonwealth Video games, it was for the primary time that, among the many 10 groups, we confronted non-Asian groups, together with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, who’re a part of the Professional League. Solely Ghana was ranked under Pakistan. We misplaced to Australia and New Zealand, however managed to defeat Scotland and drew with South Africa. Although stage on factors with New Zealand, the aim distinction once more denied us enjoying the fifth/sixth place recreation. Pakistan completed seventh after beating Canada. However the staff’s graph was going up.
Q. So what’s stopping Pakistan from going to the highest once more?
A. A number of issues. It had taken some effort to evolve a mix. However then a minimum of 9 of our gamers joined golf equipment within the English league and have been all of the sudden unavailable. As well as, a brand new supervisor, Saeed Khan, and new coaches Ayaz Mahmood and Usman Shaikh, have been introduced into the coaches panel. Once more, I joined the camp for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup late resulting from visa points. I had developed an excellent working relationship with the earlier help workers, who had helped me implement the sport plan. The brand new coaches, particularly Ayaz, maintained that my technique is unsuitable for Pakistan. He desired an attacking recreation, however with no construction. He usually didn’t come to the camp due to his PIA job. Then the supervisor Saeed Khan additionally exceeded his mandate by interfering in teaching issues.
We additionally had a giant problem with our journey bills. It was unclear if we’d even have the ability to fly to Malaysia. We solely got here to find out about that on the day of the departure. Regardless of all this, the gamers carried out past my expectations. With 9 boys making their worldwide debuts, our third place was a high-quality achievement.
Two weeks later, it was 2022’s final occasion, the Nations Cup in South Africa. Once more, no cash within the PHF’s coffers, once more uncertainty. Then, when the cash arrived, the airline tickets took time. Rankings sensible, Pakistan have been seventh among the many eight competing groups and we completed seventh. The staff’s combating spirit and bodily health have been the 2 positives to take from there.
At each the Azlan Shah Cup and the Nations Cup, no physiotherapist accompanied the squad. Virtually all of the groups had two physiotherapists. After a match, 18 gamers must recuperate, requiring 45-60 minute physiotherapy. France and Eire had include a help workers of 11. We solely had 4 on the Nations Cup.
Q. What’s your subsequent goal?
A. The 2023 Asian Video games. I’ve watched the brand new boys within the final two tournaments. They’re proficient however lack expertise. I would like a few of the discarded 9 to affix the staff.
Q. What’s your total remark concerning the Pakistan gamers?
A. Nicely, they’ve good attacking abilities and are able to creating open play possibilities and incomes penalty corners in opposition to any opposition. However their protection is weak. They want teaching on trendy strains. And it should begin from the grass roots. Pakistan ought to run common programs in any respect the degrees to make coaches conversant with the newest strategies. Take a look at India, they performed teaching programs in any respect the tiers. It paid off and India received an Olympic medal in hockey after 4 many years. Additionally, the home construction have to be revamped. The annual calendar should embody a nationwide league plus age group inter-provincial tournaments.
Q. And the way are you liking working with the Pakistan Hockey Federation?
A. It’s difficult and issues galore plus no wage for eight months. I’ve made a pledge to enhance the efficiency of the Pakistan staff, however my endurance has its limits. My household’s bills are being met by our financial savings. If not paid in February, I simply may give up.
The author is a contract sports activities journalist based mostly in Lahore.
I’ve tweeted @IjazChaudhry1 and will be reached at email@example.com
Printed in Daybreak, EOS, January fifteenth, 2023