SPORT

Finishing third will be enough for me: Pak. coach

Lahore Aug. 10. With tough competition on the cards for the top slot in the Champions Trophy commencing next week, Pakistan hockey coach Tahir Zaman is eyeing the third slot in the six-team competition.

``I have a realistic approach and reaching the victory podium in the toughest event will be enough for me,'' the coach was quoted as saying in a leading Pakistani daily on Saturday.

Although there is a lot of furore in the media around the world on Germany's decision to field its second-string team in the six-nation event, Tahir said he was not aware of the development.

Pakistan is scheduled to meet Australia on August 16 and Argentina the next day. Host Netherlands is next on the schedule on Aug. 19. After a day's rest, Pakistan clashes with Germany on Aug. 21 and the last league match is against archrival India on Aug. 22.

Before this, Pakistan plays a two-Test series against Netherlands. Tahir did not want to disclose the strategy for the two Tests and added that a victory would boost the morale of the team.

``No coach in the world can predict victory at any tournament,'' he said.

Asked why he had not set the top position as the target like former manager/coach Shahnaz Sheikh, Tahir said he did not believe in making tall claims as it would do nothing except raise unnecessary expectations.

Asked if a drubbing like the one Pakistan received at the hands of New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester last year when it lost 1-7 could force the team to fourth or fifth place due to his `realistic approach,' he said: ``There is a possibility it could happen.''

Tahir said the return of three key players — Mohammad Nadeem, Sohail Abbas, and Waseem Ahmad — would improve the confidence of his side, but admitted that the trio would be under severe pressure to perform.

The three players missed Pakistan's tour to Australia as they had gone to Germany to play in the league there despite being asked by the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) to stay in the country for the training camp.

Nadeem was dropped for the tour down under although he returned during the middle of the season while Sohail and Waseem were included in the squad after fines.

About the allegations levelled against him by axed defender Tariq Imran, he said he should not be blamed for the selection process as he was not the sole authority for choosing players.

Tariq, a PTCL player, had alleged that Tahir wants to eliminate PTCL players from the team and is promoting players from his own department, National Bank.

``We have PHF, selection committee and team manager. The coach cannot get his blue-eyed boys into the squad,'' Tahir said, adding that Tariq had in fact criticised the PHF and not him.

Tahir said disciplinary action should be taken against forwards, Sameer Hussain and Rehan Butt, who had a heated exchange during the practice session in Karachi.

``Yes, punishment should be given to those who breach the code of conduct. I was away from the camp to attend my sister's marriage when the incident happened while manager Abdul Rashid Junior tackled the issue,'' he said.

UNI