Asia Cup: Hockey moved from UAE to Malaysia.
KARACHI: Pakistan's hockey officials are now rethinking their strategy for this summer's Asia Cup after the biennial spectacle was shifted from UAE to Malaysia.
A Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) official told 'Arab News' that Dubai has pulled out as hosts for the 2009 Asia Cup, hence the tournament has been awarded to Malaysia.
Asif Bajwa, the PHF secretary, said that the move came after hockey officials in UAE expressed their inability to stage the tournament that was scheduled for May 8-15.
"Probably they (Dubai) were not ready to host the Asia Cup," said Bajwa, a former Olympian.
The decision to switch the Asia Cup was announced by the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) following its consultations with the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF).
The move didn't come as a surprise as there have been doubts about Dubai's ability to host the Asia Cup.
The tournament was awarded to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by the AHF in its last year's meeting held in the South Indian city of Hyderabad. The idea was to enable the establishment of a major hockey centre in the Gulf. UAE hockey officials had planned to host the tournament at the brand new Dubai Sports City.
However, it is understood that the hockey facility at the Dubai Sports City is still not ready as the project has been hit hard by the current economic recession.
Bajwa said that the AHF is striving hard to ensure that the Asia Cup is held during approximately the same dates.
"Malaysia is expected to announce the exact dates and the venue for the Asia Cup within the next seven days," said the PHF secretary.
A five-member committee with the AHF Secretary-General, Tansri Alagendra, as convenor, has been constituted to work on the modalities of the event.
Malaysia have to decide whether the tournament will take place in Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh or Johar Bahru - the venue where they will stage their share of the 2009 Junior World Cup matches in June. The tournament will be co-hosted by Singapore. When contacted by this correspondent, Shahid Ali Khan, the Pakistan coach, said that he and fellow coaches would soon discuss a new strategy for the Asia Cup following the venue switch.
"We have played a lot of hockey in Malaysia and will soon be featuring in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup there next month," he said referring to the five-nation tournament to be played in Ipoh from April 6-12.
"So in a way it's good that the tournament will be taking place there instead of a completely new venue," added Shahid, a former Olympian.
He said that the venue switch has made the Azlan Shah Cup even more important for Pakistan, saying that the Ipoh contest will now serve as a dress rehearsal for the Asia Cup.
Shahid said that it would be good for Pakistan if the Asia Cup takes place after the Junior World Cup. "That will give us more time to prepare for the Asia Cup which is our biggest assignment this year," he said. Pakistan is hoping to regain the Asia Cup in a bid to earn a direct spot for the 2010 World Cup to be held in India.
Meanwhile, Pakistan's hockey players will get back to work after a four-day and will reassemble in Lahore for the final phase of preparations for the Azlan Shah Cup.
Pakistan have selected an 18-man squad for the Ipoh event, who will train along side several reserves before flying out for Malaysia early next month.
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