By Sohail Ali

LAHORE, Jun 04 (APP)::Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) Secretary Muhammad Asif Bajwa has welcomed the decision of inclusion of more Asian teams in the World Hockey Cup, to be played in early 2023 in India.
The game’s ruling body, the International Hockey Federation, in its recent executive board meeting decided to give direct qualification to top three teams of the Asia Cup.
“It is a very a encouraging decision for the further development of hockey in Asia as in the past only the winner of the Asia Cup had direct qualification into the World Cup and top three teams directly playing in the World Cup will definitely make the Asia Cup more challenging and competitive with every participating team aiming to win a berth in the Cup,“ said the PHF official while talking to APP here on Thursday.
He said the FIH decision had boosted Pakistan’s chances to qualify for the next World Cup as the green shirts enjoy good record in the Asia Cup due to their good performance in the previous editions of the event.
Pakistan has won the Asia Cup thrice, finishing as runners up also three times, interestingly taking third place for similar number of years. It also happened in the history of the Asia Cup that Pak team was knocked out of the first round of the Cup in 2007 in India.
“If you look at the our team’s previous record, it supports our claim of now having bright chances to play in the World Cup,“ said Asif Bajwa adding “But it does not mean that we should be feeling contended with our record and not to aim to win the Asia Cup to emerge as the top ranking team in Asia and to improve our ranking in Asia .”
The PHF secretary said that Pakistan team has to go a long way in regaining its glittering past and to revive its sagging hockey fortune in the given circumstances when its struggling at a very low position at international level.
“It will be a big encouragement for our team and also for the cause of our hockey if our team qualifies for the next World Cup by putting up good performance in the next Asia Cup which is likely to be played in 2021 as the Asian Hockey Federation has not yet announced its dates.”
The former Olympian pointed out that with top three teams directly getting into the World Cup, the Asia Cup will become the toughest hockey event in Asia as top six teams of the continent will be going into the event with a similar mind set of winning the event or finishing among top three.
“We have to put in a lot of hard work and our team should be well prepared to take on a tough challenge in the next Asia Cup and we have to draw a road map which could ensure our high level performance in the Asia Cup and also a place for our team in the World Cup,” said the PHF secretary.