PHF hires Dutch man Michel Van Den Heuvel as National Coach

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PHF hires Dutch man Michel Van Den Heuvel as National Coach

Finally, on Saturday, the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) got a go ahead from Federal Sports Ministry to rope in a foreign coach. The new coach is former Dutch hockey player Michel Van Den Heuvel.

The foreign coach will cost Euro 10,000 – equivalent to Rs 1.1 million - per month to the national exchequer. The federation, during last week’s Executive Board meeting in Lahore, got an approval of fifteen hundred Euros per month for the Dutch coach and his trainer hiring. But now it appears as if the PHF has shelved its policy to hire a trainer with Heuvel.

The federation has signed a contract with the Dutch man until London Olympics 2012. Heuvel will join the Pakistan squad today at a training camp at the Hockey Club of Pakistan Stadium in Karachi.

The Pakistan Hockey Federation official said Hiring a veteran foreign coach is the need of the hour as well as the most instant step for the federation to cope with the physical fitness and technique mythology of the under-performing national squad. The step taken by the federation will help it to bail itself out from the stern criticism it has been facing from the former Olympians since the World Cup debacle.

Winners of four World Champ titles and three times Olympian gold medallists. The green shirts enjoyed the golden era for more than three decades (1956 to 1986). Pakistan hockey is striving hard to clinch a big title since their 1994 World Cup victory in Australia. They won their last Asian title 19 years back, winning the Asian Games in China. Pakistan earned a poor 8th position in 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and finished last at the 2010 Hockey World Cup played in India earlier this year – their worst ever showing in both mega events of field hockey. They also failed to make out the prestigious event of six-team Champions Trophy in 2008 and 2009.

Former hockey came harsh on the federation’s decision to appoint a discarded coach. Shahnaz Sheikh, a former Olympian said “Why the Dutch hockey association has sacked him. Had he been so good he would have been there with the Dutch team”.

PHF Secretary General Asif Bajwa defended the appointment of Dutch coach against the criticism from former Olympians for hiring the foreign coach. He said that it was the right time to bring in a foreign expert as the under-performing Green Shirts needed rejuvenation and had to partake in various international events in the future. “The PHF thinks that this is the only way to get back to the top and we will give him (Michel van den) complete support and is sure that he is capable of delivering the goods,” said Bajwa. Green Shirts will tour Spain in July before competing in Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October and November’s Asian Games in China.

Commenting upon the capability and potential of local coaches, former Olympian Asif Bajwa said that PHF has given ample chances to many qualified former Olympians in past few years but no one could achieve desired results of improving the overall performance of the national squad. He further added that the performance of local talent was known to all and nobody can deny the reality that all of them served the national sport in the past with lofty claims. “I’m not criticizing or challenging anyone’s credentials however the PHF executive board is of the view that new options and era must be explored to bring in improvement on the performance of the team,” said Asif Bajwa.

After the Word Cup debacle, Pakistan Hockey Federation sacked the national coach Shahid Ali Khan accompanied by furious vilification from officials, former Olympians and hockey fans. Junior team's coach Khawaja Junaid got a temporary appointment as national coach for the 19th Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia, where the men in green finished fifth in seven-nation tournament.

Pakistan side has been quite successful under the Dutch coaches. Michel Van Den will be Pakistan’s third Dutch coach. Pakistan during the tenure of Dutch man Hans Jorritsma had clinched its last big title - 1994 Hockey World Cup - in Australia, while under another Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans in 2004 Green Shirts improved their ranking at the international level.

The newly hired coach can only give the desired results if he is given a free hand and is allowed to select a team of his own choice. But in a country like Pakistan where the PHF is a politically administered institution, this is just unlikely.

We have seen in the past that an impressive Dutch coach-come-physical instructor Wouter Tazelaar failed to make an impact on the Pakistan’s national squad. He was mainly roped in to get the Pakistan players in top physical form but the World Cup debacle provided evidence of his miserable failure. Even the PHF secretary revealed to the media, after the Delhi debacle, that “players were not physically fit”.

The most important thing, irrespective of the foreign and local coach, is that the newly appointed Dutch coach must be authorized to work on his own plan without any political interference otherwise it will spell doom for the already plunging Pakistan hockey.



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