Pakistan’s new hockey head coach Khawaja Junaid is facing a revolt of sorts from some senior players and officials even as the national team prepares for two tough matches against the Netherlands next month in its first step towards winning a berth in Tokyo Olympics.
Not only has top goalkeeper Imran Butt refused to come out of retirement to join the training camp in Lahore, making it clear he will not work with Junaid, but a successful video analyst Abuzar Omrao also refused to join the team because of the head coach.
Butt and Abuzar were part of Pakistan contingent which in December 2014 had reached the final of the Champions Trophy in India.
Well-informed sources in the national camp, underway in Lahore, said some senior players were also not happy with Junaid, a former Olympian who has been appointed coach in the past as well by the Pakistan Hockey Federation.
“To make matters worse chief selector Manzoor junior also conveyed his objections to the PHF when Junaid decided to call-up some senior players for the camp without consulting the national selectors,” one source said.
Asked about this, Manzoor junior, a celebrated name in Pakistan hockey, shot back, saying, “You think I am such a weak person or small name that anyone can call players to camp without consulting me.”
Apparently, PHF secretary Asif Bajwa had also asked Imran Butt, one of the top goalkeepers in the country, to come out of retirement and join the national camp.
“Yes, I cannot and will not like to be part of any team where Khawaja Junaid is head coach,” Butt said. “I respect him as an elder and senior but we have some serious differences and I don’t think we can work well together,” Butt added.
Butt decided to retire at a young age two years back when Junaid was head coach of the Pakistan team that did badly in the World Hockey League in London.
The PHF is already facing some embarrassment after it was revealed that assistant coach Muhammad Wasim had returned from the camp to Australia to play league hockey even as the players prepared for the Olympic qualifiers.
But the PHF said Wasim has before accepting to become assistant coach informed the officials that he had commitments with his Melbourne Hockey Club and would need to travel to Australia for a week or so to play some matches and then return to Lahore.