Pakistan men’s hockey team has been in the wilderness for a few years now. Failure to qualify for either the 2014 World Cup or the 2016 Olympics had left
the proud hockey nation licking its wounds and looking for a new direction.
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In the past few months however, things have begun to turn around. Qualification for the Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup, plus inclusion in the inaugural
Hockey Pro League means there is a buzz around the camp again. In the meantime, the Green Shirts also have a Commonwealth Games and a Hockey Champions
Trophy to contest.
With these major challenges on the horizon, the arrival of newly appointed head coach Roelant Oltmans is a potentially genius appointment by the
Pakistan Hockey Association.
Roelant Oltmans’ return to Pakistan as chief coach of the men’s hockey team will be his second spell in the country, having coached them in
2003-04 up to the Athens Olympics where they finished fifth.
The Dutchman is one of the most strategic thinkers in the game, and his recent experiences with the India national hockey team, combined
with that earlier stint in Pakistan, has more than prepared him for a life coaching hockey in Asia. Oltmans himself believes that the
experience he gained by working with the Indian hockey team will help him reverse the fortunes of Pakistan hockey in the next two years.
Talking to PTI, the Dutch coach said that since joining the Pakistan camp in Karachi he can safely say that Pakistani players have
the enthusiasm and talent to learn and get back to the top. “I have gained a lot after working in Indian hockey since 2013.
I have a better insight into how the mind of Asian players works. About their skills and ability to learn quickly the finer
points of the game. I think I am in a very good position now to deliver for Pakistan hockey,” he said.
Oltmans who worked for a short period with Pakistan in 2003-04, said his second tenure with Pakistan hockey would be more
productive.“I have always seen work ing with Pakistan or Indian hockey as a challenge. Because these countries have
ruled the hockey world and they have the ability to dominate again despite the changes in the way hockey is played
now,” Oltmans said.He was initially appointed High-Performance Manager by Hockey India in 2013 but took ove r as head
coach after the incumbent coach, Dutchman Paul Van Ass, was relieved of his position in controversial circumstances
in 2015. Hockey India got impatient with Oltmans after he failed to produce desired results with the team, recently.
Oltmans, who has been appointed head coach until September 2020, said next month’s Commonwealth Games in Australia
would be a tough learning curve for the young Pakistan team. “It will be a miracle if they can finish among
the top three. But I have targeted the Asian Games and World Cup and I want to see Pakistan finish on the podium.
My eventual target is the next Olympics,” he said. Oltmans made it clear he enjoyed his long stint with Indian
hockey and was happy to see money and sponsorship coming into the sport in India which had turned hockey into
a professional sport. “India winning the Junior World Cup was a very satisfying result for me.”
Oltmans said Pakistan players were brilliant individually but lacked impact as a team. “I’m working to
improve their fitness level, skills, mental sharpness and other grey areas.” he said. Oltmans who has
been in the coaching profession since 1994 having guided his home country, Holland to several titles
including the 1996 Olympics Games in Atlanta and the women’s World Cup in 2007, said he had no issues
coming to Pakistan. “I am happy being here because Pakistan has a rich hockey legacy and I know even
the players want back the glory days. They were no security concerns for me.” Rizwan senior has been
named as captain of the 18-member Pakistan squad for the Commonwealth Games.
Pakistan’s opening match in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games will be against Wales and they will
also face India, England and Malaysia
In a draw that will have hockey fans drooling, the opening game of the Rabobank Men’s Hockey
Champions Trophy in June, will see Pakistan will open the tournament with a match against
arch-rivals India. It will be interesting to monitor Oltmans reaction should Pakistan win