LAHORE: When the 15th Hockey World Cup rolls into action simultaneously in Bhubaneshwar and Rourkela in Odisha, India on January 13, Pakistan, the team who have won it for four times, the most by any side, will not been seen in action, having failed to qualify for the second time. They first failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2014. To qualify for the World Cup 2023, Pakistan needed to reach the semifinals of the Asia Cup held in May 2022 in Jakarta, Indonesia. But the Green Shirts ended at the fifth spot above Bangladesh, Oman and hosts Indonesia. It was Pakistan that floated the idea of a Hockey World Cup in the late 1960s. Pakistan also presented the magnificent World Cup trophy. Pakistan not only won the first edition in 1971 but also in 1978, 1982 and 1994. Through the first eight editions of the World Cup, Pakistan collected four gold and two silver medals, making them the most successful team in the tournament. They won their fourth gold medal in Sydney in 1994, no other team have been able to equal their gold medal tally so far. As per the statistics released by the FIH, Australia and Netherlands come in next with three gold medals each. Australia have won a total of 10 medals at the World Cups, which is the most amongst all nations. Their tally includes 03 gold medals, 02 silver medals and 05 bronze medals. Netherlands have won 09 medals — 03 golds, 04 silver and 02 bronze medals. Australia last won the gold at the 2014 World Cup, while Netherlands’ wait for the title has been really long, having last won the 1998 edition. The Dutch were close to the elusive 4th gold medal at both 2014 and 2018, ending with the silver medal at both editions. Germany have won 02 gold medals, with the last one coming in 2006. India (1975) and Belgium (2018) are the other two teams to have won gold medals. India, Netherlands and Spain are the only teams to have appeared in all 14 editions so far. Argentina, Australia, England and Pakistan have appeared in 13 editions so far, with only Pakistan missing out on the 2014 and 2023 editions. A total of 26 nations have competed at the 14 editions of the men’s World Cup so far. Chile and Wales will take the number up to 28 as they make their debut appearances at the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela. With the modern changes in the requirements of the game, Pakistan has not been able to compete with the fast pace of changing rules. There are no modern and foreign coaches for Pakistan hockey. Our failure to adapt with modern hockey has affected us a lot. And above all, incompetency, lack of planning, unprofessionalism of the Pakistan Hockey Federation along with inconsistent policies have destroyed the very fabric of hockey. Sixteen teams will commence their campaign for the top honours in the World Cup on Friday (tomorrow). Odisha will be hosting its second consecutive World Cup, a distinction no other hockey-playing city or country has ever enjoyed. In between these two events the state also hosted the Junior World Cup. This will be third World Cup being hosted in India in 12 years, apart from the three Junior World Cups (2013, 2016, 2021) which were held in the country. Odisha has also been the venue for Hockey Pro League over the past 4 years, following the FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup in 2018. There are four pools: Pool A has Australia, Argentina, France and South Africa, Pool B has Belgium, Germany, South Korea and Japan, Pool C has Netherlands, New Zealand, Malaysia and Chile while Pool D has India, England, Spain and Wales. Major causes of Pakistan hockey decline: Like the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Pakistan’s World Cup omission is tragic. For a country that has won three Olympic golds and a record four World Cup titles, missing out on back-to-back Olympic Games and two World Cups is nothing less than a catastrophe. Pakistan has suffered a shocking and continuous decline from being consistently among the top four to languishing at 18th in the latest world rankings. The agonising reality is that Pakistan hockey has acquired a ‘loser’ image in world hockey and become a synonym for defeat, mediocrity and failure. It is now the Sick Man of global hockey and it’s incorrigible and confirmed Pauper. It has reached its nadir. Pakistan hockey’s slump is not quite as dramatic or sudden as it now seems to be. It’s been a slow and painful decline that began after 1994. The major causes of decline of Pakistan hockey are multifarious. Hockey is no longer a game of choice for youth and concerned parents in Pakistan. School and college level hockey has diminished from the country. Cricket, with better financial rewards and glamour, has slowly replaced hockey in schools and colleges. Unlike cricketers, the financial status of hockey players is quite low. Pakistan hockey structure lacks in terms of skills and competitiveness. The very base of the game has shrunk beyond belief. The government and private sector’s apathy towards the national sport and giving more importance to cricket is another big factor. For the last two decades, the government has done nothing seriously for promotion of the national sport of the country. Lack of media attention is another reason, as hardly any channel in Pakistan discusses the issues related to hockey due to domination of cricket. With the modern changes in the requirements of the game, Pakistan has not been able to compete with the fast pace of changing rules. There are no modern and foreign coaches for Pakistan hockey. Our failure to adapt with modern hockey has affected us a lot. And above all, incompetency, lack of planning, unprofessionalism of the Pakistan Hockey Federation along with inconsistent policies have destroyed the very fabric of hockey. Pakistan hockey needs adequate hockey activities at early level which is only possible by evolving a system which could ensure that hockey gets due attention among the youth. Pakistan was a fantastic hockey nation for decades and ruled at international level by virtue of their talent and skills and now we are struggling to make our mark at the highest level of the game. To rise above again, Pakistan hockey requires strong financial backup, commitment and self-belief. Only hard and incessant efforts lead to success. In the absence of these, we should not dream of reaching skies. It is so painful that country’s national sport, having so much pride and passion, has gone to the dogs!