New Delhi, May 20 (IANS): Pakistan's chief coach Siegfried Aikman has said that world hockey needs India and Pakistan to lead in the sport.
The 63-year-old Dutch coach, who traces his roots to the undivided India from where his ancestors moved to Suriname, added that India are doing well at the moment, but Pakistan need to revive their hockey.
India and Pakistan had dominated world hockey for decades till the 1970s before they lost their prominent position after the 1980s. But India have clawed their way back and won the bronze medal in Tokyo Olympics last year and the men's team is currently ranked third in the world. Pakistan is ranked 18th in FIH Rankings.
Speaking ahead of the start of the Men's Asia Cup, the newly-appointed Pakistan head coach Aikman said, "World Hockey needs India and Pakistan to lead in the sport. India are doing well at the moment. But we need to revive ourselves, and I am hopeful I can do that here, and make Pakistan Hockey promising again. I want to develop a structure in the country where we can start building players at the grassroots so that in 10 years, we have a Pakistan team that can compete against the top teams."
The Asia Cup, set to begin in Jakarta on May 23, is a World Cup qualifier. India, Japan, Pakistan, and hosts Indonesia are placed in pool A while Malaysia, Korea, Oman, and Bangladesh are grouped in pool B.
Speaking ahead of the start of the Men's Asia Cup, which will see the participation of top Asian countries, Aikman said, "I think it will be a tough tournament. There is no second chance or bypass for other teams to reach the World Cup. Apart from India, who have already qualified for the World Cup, it's all or nothing for the other teams. Hence, all of us have to go all out in the tournament."
In a mega battle, India will face off against Pakistan in Pool A match on Monday (May 23). With the Super 4s format introduced in the Asia Cup, the prospect of India taking on Pakistan twice is also a possibility. On being asked about the relations between the two teams, Aikman opened up about the mutual respect among the players from the two nations.
"Players are very excited to be back to competition. They want to play against the best and are looking forward to the match against India," said Aikman, who had coached Japan men's hockey team to gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.
"There is a lot of respect among Pakistan players for Indian hockey players. Some Indians are even their role models. I saw the same respect in Indian players the other way around as well. This environment is a good one to have," he added.
"The Indian hockey team is a big example for teams in Asia. They showed that you can come from very deep and reach far. It takes time, but if you do it consistently and bluntly that you will get there," Aikman signed off.