Pakistan president leads hockey gold praise


KARACHI: Pakistan on Friday celebrated their first Asian Games hockey gold in 20 years with the country’s president and prime minister hoping the victory ushers in a new era for the national sport. Pakistan beat Malaysia 2-0 in the final in Guangzhou, China to claim the gold that earned them an automatic ticket to the 2012 London Olympics.
The victory capped a disappointing year, having finished at a miserable 12th in the World Cup and sixth at the Commonwealth Games — both held in India. “The whole nation was proud of the hockey team which has lifted the Pakistan flag high and we now hope that it will usher a new era in for Pakistan hockey,” said President Asif Ali Zardari.
“I congratulate the hockey team for winning gold medal. They have given the whole nation great joy and we hope they will carry on to win more laurels for the country,” added Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Three times Olympic title holders and four times world champions, Pakistan had slumped on an international level in recent years. The Asian Games win, their eighth, is their first major achievement since winning the World Cup in Australia in 1994.
Hundreds of fans gathered outside the Pakistan Hockey Federation headquarters in the eastern city of Lahore to celebrate.
“It is a huge win for Pakistan,” said Zulfiqara Bhatti, a college sports teacher who used to play hockey at a national level.
“I hope people will now leave cricket and follow hockey.”
Sports Minister Ijaz Jakhrani announced a cash award of five million rupees (12,000 dollars) and hoped the team would achieve more.
“We have an emotional attachment to squash and hockey because we reigned supreme in the world of these two games for a long time,” he said. “For a brief period we lost our superiority but the wins in the Asian Games will help revive our national sport,” said Jakhrani.