KARACHI: Sohail Abbas, the highest goal scorer in the history of international field hockey, was named as Pakistan captain on Sunday for this month’s London Olympics.
“It has always been my dream to captain my country in the Olympics and today that has come true. Now the real test begins,” Abbas told Reuters.
The 35-year old defender has been the most recognisable player in Pakistan hockey at a time when the sport has declined in a country which prided itself on its hockey achievements.
Highly skilled players until the 1890s vindicated hockey’s status as Pakistan’s national game by winning three Olympics gold medals, four World Cups and a host of other titles.
But after winning the 1994 World Cup in Sydney Pakistan’s next major title came last year in the Asian Games when it won the gold after a gap of 20 years.
“I strongly believe if we play as a team we can be a dangerous side in the Olympics and back on the medals podium,” Abbas said.
With a tally of 345 goals, the strongly built Abbas is considered to be one of the few players who can take Pakistan back to their Olympic glory days.
“They say hockey today is all about speed, precision and fitness, I say if we play as one and use our skills effectively we can beat any team,” Abbas said.
Abbas who missed the last Games in Beijing after scoring 11 goals in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and eight in Athens four years later is hoping to rediscover the same form in London.
“I know this is my last shot at Olympic glory and also being captain. The number of goals I have scored are important but a Olympic gold medal is what I want,” added.
The Pakistani selectors recalled senior forwards Rehan Butt and Shakeel Abbasi and midfielder, Waseem Ahmed on Sunday in a preliminary Olympic squad of 20 pinning hopes on a combination of experience and youth to deliver results.
Chief selector, Hanif Khan who was a member of the 1984 gold medal winning Olympic team in Los Angles said he had told the players how it felt to hold the gold medal.
“I tried to motivate them after we picked our players. I told them if you win the Olympic medal you will become heroes for life,” Hanif said.
Pakistan won either the hockey gold or the silver from the 1956 to the 1972 Olympics. The country has won only two other Olympic medals – bronzes to wrestler Mohammad Bashir in 1960 and a boxing bronze by Hussain Shah in the 1988 Games.