Pakistan’s winning hockey team forgotten, losing cricket team adored?

Published: November 13, 2013

Pakistan's hockey team wins the second Asian Champions trophy. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

There is no free lunch when it comes to coverage of sports in Pakistan. Pakistan’s hockey team has just won the second Asian Champions Trophy by beating Japan in the finals and with this victory, Pakistan has retained the title for the second time.

Interestingly, while our hockey squad was on stage in Japan reveling with their gold medals, Pakistan’s cricket team was getting hammered at the hands of the South Africans in the UAE.

Even more interesting was the stark contrast in the nation’s response to these two international sporting events. Even though Pakistan lost the ODI series, the audience was glued to their TV sets, constantly updating their Twitter feeds and Facebook statuses, while hockey was nowhere in sight.

No trumpets were blown for our hockey team; there was no red carpet welcome and no official congratulations came their way.

Victory that feels like defeat is what seems to have struck Pakistan’s national sport these days.

Achievements in hockey

When it comes to our achievements, cricket can barely scratch the surface when compared with hockey. It has literally been medals galore for hockey since inception.

  • World cup: Four gold and two silver medals
  • Olympics: Three gold, three silver and two bronze medals
  •  Asian games: Eight gold, two silver and three bronze medals
  • Champions trophy: Three gold, six silver and seven bronze medals

In addition, we also hold the world record for the highest number of goals scored in international hockey with Sohail Abbas’s shining 348 goal tally.

Achievements in cricket

On the other hand, cricket has brought home the World Cup just once in 1992, the Asia Cup in 2000 and the International Cricket Council (ICC) T-20 in 2009, and that is about it.

We are yet to produce a batsman who makes the highest number of runs in cricket, while Sachin Tendulkar is the record holder of 15,847 runs – the highest number of runs achieved.

The irony

Despite this gigantic gap between the laurels of cricket and hockey, cricket remains the talk of the town and it is cricket and not hockey that is blazed on our TV screens left, right and centre. Regardless of cricket’s poor performance and hockey’s high achievements, cricket hogs the limelight while hockey remains in the shadows today.

The question arises, why is hockey, the sport that has given so much to the nation, facing an almost complete blackout from our public, news and media?  Why is cricket, given its poor performance, always in the limelight?

The answer to this question is fairly complex and involves two elements – the commercial nature of our media and the rapidly changing demographics of our society.

The media’s role in hockey’s death

 

As is the case internationally, our electronic and print media groups are not voluntary or philanthropic organisations working for the common good. Rather, they are commercial organisations led by profit. Media owners have invested a lot of capital in their business with an aim to see a return on their investments. Hence, what gets aired has to be commercially viable.

Of course, cricket is where the money is and hockey, frankly speaking, is not. Banks, mobile companies and all other major sponsors are into cricket. Therefore, it is logical, not to mention commercially sound, to dedicate space where the sponsors want it.

Unfortunately, hockey being an amateur sport does not have much of a marketing appeal for the sponsors to enable it to sustain media coverage. This is the case not only in Pakistan, but all over the world as well.

This lack of sponsorship appeal means hockey is given a back-seat, even if we are a winning team.  Moreover, all the glamour and scandals in cricket make it even more appealing to media groups and lucrative sponsorship deals ensure air time irrespective of the result.

It seems that it is profits and not patriotism that makes a losing sport so popular, while putting the victorious national sport on the back bench.

A young hockey-less generation

Pakistan’s population has changed drastically over the years and two thirds of the population is yet to reach the age of 30. This audience cannot relate to the victorious era of hockey from the past. The vast majority of Pakistanis have not seen Islahudin Siddiqui, Samiullah Khan or Hassan Sardar dribble past defenders and score breathtaking goals.

If they have not seen or heard about our hockey players, they cannot really mean much to them, can they?

As the current generation grows up, they are bombarded through media with cricket and even European league football, which was completely unknown just two decades ago in this part of the world. It is common these days for kids to know the names of favourite players in Manchester United or Arsenal and even know the names of their team members. However, try asking a youngster today what the name of the captain of Pakistan’s hockey team is, and I can guarantee that he will look at you in bewilderment.

Unfortunately, hockey is neither in the memory of our youth nor is its artistry and excitement displayed on TV. There is simply no way that hockey – our national sport – can have a future with trends like this.

The seriousness of the situation calls for all who love the sport, the entire hockey fraternity and stakeholders in Pakistan to join their heads and look for a remedy. Merely funding the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) will not do, although it is the federation that has the responsibility as well as the resources, to develop the sport in the country.

However, if the federation has failed and so far it has, then it is time for the fans to take over, irrespective of how few they may be.

Kashif.Shahzada

Kashif Shahzada

A hockey coach based in Karachi and tweets as @KashifShahzada (twitter.com/KashifShahzada)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • genesis

    That’s because Cricket is the OPIUM of the masses.One would rather be a mediocre cricketer than be a first class hockey or any other game player.Even mediocrity in cricket is glamorousRecommend

  • genesis

    That’s because Cricket is the OPIUM of the masses.One would rather be a mediocre cricketer than be a first class hockey or any other game player.Even mediocrity in cricket is glamorousRecommend

  • Ehsan karim

    Very trueRecommend

  • Ehsan karim

    Very trueRecommend

  • Ehsan karim

    I was noting this point also. Only Express news covered the story at that time . Every channel was crying on the lost of ODI-Series.Recommend

  • Moeez

    a very good article, the future of our national sport looks bleak if the govt doesn’t step up to endorse and promote it.Recommend

  • Waqar

    this is very bad, no media coverage ,I am fond of hockey, & i should illuminate hockey or any other game rather than cricket, i think our cricketers dont play for the nation,, they dont work hard, administration should focus on other games too except cricket mafiaRecommend

  • rattlesnake_906

    It’s simple, our nearest rulers (Engrez) brought it to the subcontinent. Subcontinent traditions are hard to get rid of, right? Hockey is only out National Sport on paper. Nation’s blood (majority of it) is fueled by Cricket.Recommend

  • bridgeseller

    One win does not a champion make. A quick search on the IHF website says they are ranked 8th. But they ARE ranked above you know who. Maybe there’s the appeal?Recommend

  • Shamy

    You can’t compare cricket with hockey. Its almost like comparing apples with oranges. If silver and bronze medals were the criteria, lets include them in cricket as well, and then see the number of times we have reached quarter finals and semi finals.Recommend

  • Taj Ahmad

    PCB offices must be closed and cricket team players must send home and
    Pakistan government must focus on field hockey and football team.
    Pakistan cannot afford expenses on a team that cannot play against world
    top five teams…..Australia, England, India, South Africa and New Zealand.Recommend

  • Taj Ahmad

    We should support our hockey and build a strong football team as well, cricket
    must be banned in Pakistan as this game cost too much and no results/winning
    at the end. Our current cricket team can only play against Kenya and Afghanistan.
    Recommend

  • Spock

    To be fair this tournament was supposed to be for junior players and everyone except pakistan sent their juniors. Pakistan was bound to win as they sent all senior team.

    This victory doesnt mean much, hence not even covered by international media.Recommend

  • David

    Hockey is toughest sports among all the sports of world. We should proud as Hockey is our national game. But Cricket occupied masses because the people do gambling and it is glamorous among Pakistani girls. That is the reason TV channels and newspapers give so much coverage to cricket.Recommend

  • Sajid

    Building a Strong International Football team & Encouraging Hockey,Squash,Boxing etc should be Our First Priority.Whereas cricket must be banned in Pakistan as this game Cost too much, with no results or winning at the end.Also ICC is treating Pakistan through Biased Intentions.Recommend

  • Mujahid

    ..That’s because Hockey has let us down so bad that people have stopped taking any interest in it…and now Cricket is gladly following in Hockey’s footsteps.Recommend