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Asian Champions Trophy: Pakistan hockey team excited to play in India

Asian Champions Trophy: Pakistan men’s hockey coach Sheikh Shahnaz stated that his squad is always eager to play in India as they landed in Chennai on Tuesday to compete in the Asian Champions Trophy 2023.

Prior to the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Chennai 2023, the atmosphere in Chennai was supercharged by the entrance of India’s neighbours China and Pakistan on Tuesday night.

The Pakistan team entered India through the Attari-Wagah border in Amritsar, after which they boarded a flight to Chennai via Bengaluru, as opposed to the China men’s hockey Team, who flew directly to the host city.

“We are always excited to play in India and it definitely adds to the pressure, but good quality players know how to perform and deliver under pressure, hence, we are hopeful of a good show on and off the field,” Pakistan coach Sheikh Shahnaz was quoted as saying by Hockey India.

The dates of August 3 through August 12 have been set aside for the Asian Champions Trophy in Chennai 2023. According to a press release from Hockey India, the tournament will include heated matches amongst the six participating teams, which are India, Pakistan, Korea, China, Malaysia, and Japan.

Along with India, Pakistan is the most successful team in the history of the Asian Champions Trophy, and they will now be attempting to capture the coveted trophy for a record-breaking fourth time.

On August 3, Pakistan will face off against Malaysia.

“We are here to play positive hockey and I believe that India and Pakistan should play more and more matches against each other as it will help both teams to take their respective games to the next level. Also, the Asian Champions Trophy will serve as a good precursor to Hangzhou Asian Games as we will be playing against the same teams in China, so this tournament will help us identify strengths and weaknesses of our opponents,” he added before stating, “We are hopeful of at least playing the final of the tournament.”

Also, commenting on grouping numerous young players with a couple of experienced campaigners in his team, Shahnaz said, “Nowadays, you have to take a chance by adding young players to the team. It has now become a crucial aspect of modern hockey. The younger players not only have better fitness levels but also bring new energy, commitment, flair, and skills to a team and they can easily adapt to the ever-changing hockey environment. So, I believe the mixture of youngsters with some experienced players in the team is more effective in modern hockey.”

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Captain Umar Bhutta said, “Many of the young players in our team recently played in the Junior Asia Cup. So, for them, this tournament will be familiar to a certain extent and they won’t find it very difficult to get accustomed to the conditions here and play in such high-level tournaments as I think that a sportsman is habitual to soak pressure and perform in crunch situations.”

“Also, I have some wonderful memories of playing in India when I last came to this country five years ago to participate in the 2018 World Cup. This time as well, I have come here with the hope of giving our best as a team and gaining as much experience as we can. Moreover, it’s a crucial tournament for us in regards to the upcoming Asian Games as we will be able to try different team combinations and fine-tune our strategies in this competition, which will ultimately help us improve as a team,” he added.

On the other hand, China are eyeing to clinch the Asian Champions Trophy for the first time. They will play their opening game of the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Chennai 2023 on 3rd August against the hosts India.

In anticipation of the upcoming tournament, China’s Coach Haiqin Weng provided insights into their preparations, stating, “We have prepared very well for the tournament and we are excited to play in India. People here are very nice and we are eager to play in the Asian Champions Trophy here.

Further talking about the weather and playing conditions in Chennai, Haiqin said, “The weather is very hot here, however, the turf where the tournament will be played is pretty similar to the one that we have in China, so that will be an added advantage for us.”