The Pakistani Juniors are hoping to kick start their hockey revival with a good outing at the 3rd editon of the Sultan of Johor Cup that gets underway at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium in Johor Baru this Sunday.
After the Pakistani senior side failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, hockey in Pakistan is at an all time low as this is the first time in the hostory of the World Cup that Pakistan have failed to make it to the final rounds.
And Umar Bhutta, the Pakistan skipper to the Sultan of Johor Cup feels that the tournament is a perfect platform to kick start the revival of Pakistani hockey.
"There is so much dismay back home when we failed to make it to the World Cup. It was a disaster. But we are hoping that we can do well at the Junior World Cup in New Delhi this December so that confidence in the sport can be restored," said Umar.
"The SOJC will help us gauge our form and also help us identify the weakness we need to work on ahead of the Junior World Cup.
"The level of competition here is high, thus I will not target Pakistan to be champions but to get a podium finish.
"One has to understand that we have had a change in coach and that will take some adjusting as well. On top of that we did not have much training matches against overseas teams."
Besides Umar who played in the Asia Cup in Ipoh with the senior side Rizwan Junior, Syed Kashif Shah, Khalid Bhatti and penalty corner ace Mohammad Tousiq.
Pakistan were edged 2-1 in the Junior Asia Cup final in Malacca in may last year and are wary of the Malaysian side whom Umar describes as a very good side.
"I am truly impressed with the Malaysian squad and feel that they and India will be the ones to watch out for at this tournament," said Umar who plays for KL Hockey Club in the Malaysian Hockey League."
Pakistan take on South Korea in their opening match on Sunday and Umar sees them as a coehesive unit that will surely trouble them.
"Korea is always difficult to play and taking them on in the opening match will surely make things more tougher," said Umar.
"We have a strong desire to excel and that is what will help us through in this tournament. I have a bunch of players that are keen to restore pride for Pakistan and will not look at this as pressure.
"It is the Junior World Cup that matters to all of us in the team."
Pakistan’s junior hockey team head coach Manzoor-ul-Hasan Senior admitted that despite having no role in team selection, he was confident of a good performance by the players in the Sultan of Johor Cup commencing this Sunday.
Forward Mohd Azwar Abdul Rahman’s decision to take a semester break from his studies paid off when he was called up to play in the third edition of the Sultan of Johor Cup, which begins at the Taman Daya Stadium in Johor Baru on Sunday.
The Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has appointed Olympic gold medalist Manzoorul Hassan as manager-cum-head coach of the national junior team that will fly to Malaysia later this week.
Having been set a target of winning the 3rd Sultan of Johor Cup by the Malaysian Hockey Confederation, the National Juniors are ready to deliver when the tournament gets underway this Sunday at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium in Johor Baru.
Olympian Umar Bhutta was named captain as Pakistan’s junior team was announced on Tuesday for the third Sultan of Johor Invitational hockey tournament to be held in Johor Baru from Sept 22 to 29.