December 13 - Hockey in Pakistan is beginning to show signs of revival thanks to Government support, the sport's leader Qasim Zia (pictured) has claimed.

Zia, the President of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) who was a member of the team that won the Olympic gold medals at the Los Angeles Games in 1984, said that progress was being made to restore the sport back to its former glories.

He said: “We have made a significance progress for the revival and development of the game by taking drastic measures and we will continue our efforts with undying spirit to lift hockey out of present gloom.

“The Government is always behind us to support hockey and we look forward to it for its continuous backing and if have regular yearly basis financial assistance we will be able to continue our development programmes to ensure a better future of hockey."

The signs of progress have been evident at the Champions Challenge Cup in Salta, Argentina, where Pakistan have reached the final, beating bitter rivals India 6-3 in the semi-final.

Along with cricket, hockey is the national sport in Pakistan. 

The country have only ever won three gold medals since it started competing in the Olympics at London in 1948, all of them in hockey.

Their first came in Rome in 1960 when they became the first country to beat India after they had won six consecutive titles, a sequence that had started in Los Angeles in 1932.

The last time Pakistan won a medal was in 1992 when they finished third in Barcelona.

They finished eighth in Beijing last year and afterwards a four-year plan was launch to win the gold medal at London in 2012, which was drawn up shortly before Zia was elected as the 23rd President of the PHF in October 2008.

Zia, a former full-back who won 87 caps for Pakistan and is now a leading member of the Pakistan People's Party, has overseen a root and branch reform of hockey in the country.

These included setting up new academies across the country and trying to raise standards in Pakistan's clubs.

Zia said: "The task assigned to us is challenging but we are fully committed to better the sagging fortunes of hockey and I am confident that in next four years we will be among the top teams of the world.

"Through scrutiny which was conducted by former hockey Olympians, bogus clubs were eliminated and PHF only recognized those clubs which are supplementing their efforts for the cause of hockey."

But Zia knows that a successful national senior team will be the most important tool to help the sport develop.

He said: "If our team starts winning major tournaments it will put a new life in hockey and youth will be playing it the way they are taking interest in cricket.

"Due to the downfall of hockey in the past one decade, and no major title victory to its credit, the interest of youth to take up hockey as a sport has diminished.

"The coming years are very important for the future of hockey as we will have finished products from our hockey academies and the talent will be inducted in junior teams with ample choice available for selection."

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