KARACHI: Former Olympians and fans on Saturday mourned the “darkest day” in Pakistan’s sporting history after the former field hockey titans failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time ever.
Pakistan went down 2-1 to South Korea in the Asia Cup semi-final in Malaysia on Friday, a tournament they needed to win to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in the Netherlands.
Former captain Islahuddin Siddiqui said their downfall was “tragic”.
“This is the darkest day in our sports in general and hockey in particular,” Islahuddin told AFP.
“This will be the first time that we will miss the World Cup, a tournament which Pakistan introduced in 1971.”
Pakistan won the inaugural competition in 1971 and triumphed again in 1978, 1982 and 1994.
Three-time Olympic gold medallists, Pakistan have suffered a serious slump in field hockey.
Their only triumph since 1994 was the Asian Games title in 2010.
Olympian Shahnaz Shaikh said he felt heart-broken at hockey’s downfall.
“Why I am alive to see this day?” said Shaikh, vice-captain of Pakistan’s triumphant 1978 World Cup team. It’s sad, sad and sad, we have seen this day when the masters of hockey have come to this stage.” Shaikh said the government must replace the current hockey federation leadership.
“It’s time we have a change at the top, until and unless we do that it would be impossible to change our hockey fortune,” said Shaikh, also a qualified coach.