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Pakistan’s hockey ties with Malaysia have a long history. Pakistan’s national side toured Malaysia for the first time in 1955. Before the inception of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, the two nations mostly came across each other on the international arena at the Asian games/Asia Cup and sometimes at the Olympics and the World Cup.

 

For last many years, every season a number of Pakistani stars have been featuring in the highly competitive Malaysian Hockey League.

Pakistan have figured regularly at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, except from 1995 to 1998, when the national team were not sent because of then secretary PHF Col Mudassar Asghar’s greed for power. Mudassar was active in overt and covert efforts to replace Sultan Azlan Shah from the latter’s seat of President Asian Hockey Federation. This was really unfortunate since Azlan Shah was always a great admirer and supporter of Pakistan hockey.

 

Before 1999, Azlan Shah Cup had been a sort of a jinx for Pakistan. They had finished runners-up in four out of five appearances with a third position on the fifth occasion.

Pakistan finally came out of the hoodoo by winning the Cup in 1999. Then they became the first nation to retain this cup by emerging victorious again the following year — a feat later repeated by Australia (twice) and India.

In 1999, in particular, Pakistan exhibited superb display, thoroughly appreciated by the Malaysian crowds. They won all their six matches by a margin of two or more goals, pumping in 29 goals in total, a Pakistan record for the Azlan Shah Cup.

Sohail Abbas’ personal tally of 12 goals is also a Pakistan highest for this event.

Incidentally, the penalty corner king is also the all-time top scorer at Sultan Azlan Shah Cup with 45 goals. 

In 2001, Pakistan were eyeing a hat-trick but performed miserably; unable to reach the medal rostrum for the first time, finishing fourth. Moreover, they let in 25 goals, the highest Pakistan ever conceded in an international tournament.

They finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd in 2003, 2004 and 2005, respectively.

But in their next five appearances, Pakistan failed to climb the podium: 5th, 6th, 4th, 4th and 5th in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, respectively.

The Greenshirts finally redeemed themselves in 2011 when they finished second. But in their last two appearances, in 2012 and 2013, Pakistan ended at the bottom both the times.

 

If that wasn’t enough, in 2014, Pakistan pulled out at the eleventh hour citing a lack of funds. That annoyed the Malaysian hosts. Mr Datul Johari, secretary MHC remarked, "Pakistan had confirmed their participation earlier and their 11th hour withdrawal has placed us in a sticky situation. It is too late to invite another team,"                                                            In 2015, the organisers showed their anger by not inviting Pakistan for its unexpected refusal the year before.

The silver jubilee edition of Sultan Azlan Shah holds special importance for the Pakistan hockey. The country which once ruled the hockey world, failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time. The 2016 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup would be their first appearance in a major tournament since the World Hockey League semi-finals in 2015 where Pakistan’s eighth spot meant country’s non-appearance at the Rio 2016.

A new set up is in place at the PHF with Shahbaz Ahmed, one of the all-time greats of hockey, at the position of the secretary general. There have been some encouraging results lately. Pakistan finished second at the Junior Asia Cup and won the gold at the South Asian Games. However, their show at the 25thAzlan Shah Cup would be a real indicator. Is Pakistan hockey showing an upward graph or not? 

Pakistan’s show at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in their 19 appearances:

Gold

Silver

Bronze

Fourth

Fifth

Sixth

Seventh

 3 

 6

2

3

2

2

1