LAHORE: The 37th and last edition of the elite FIH Champions Trophy Hockey Tournament will kick off when Pakistan take on arch-rivals India in their opener in Breda, Netherlands on Saturday (today). Led by the experienced Muhammad Rizwan, the team members have been in the Netherlands for the past three weeks in order to get used to the conditions and are confident of a podium finish as the participating teams look to bid farewell to the prestigious tournament, which ends on July 1, in style. The competition in Breda is notable for many reasons, not least for the fact that it will be the last ever men’s edition of an event with an illustrious history. This heritage is reflected in the opening match which features one of the biggest rivalries in the sport: Pakistan vs India. It is the fixture that is sure to draw thousands of spectators to the venue as well as millions of fans tuning in from across the world, eagerly anticipating the latest episode of this long-running battle between two of the sport’s most successful nations.It is unfortunate that the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has decided to scrap one of the toughest events of the calendar and the 37th edition marks the end of a glorious era. A brainchild of Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) president, the late retired Air Marshal Nur Khan, it was launched on the grassy field at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium in 1978. Pakistan won the Champions Trophy thrice: 1978, 1980 and 1994, all at home, besides securing seven silver and as many bronze medals. Keeping in view their immense contribution to the game, the 13th ranked Pakistan have been awarded special entry in the last event by the FIH. The other five nations who will compete for top honours are Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Holland and India. In line with the event qualification criteria, hosts Netherlands, Olympic champions Argentina plus World Cup, World League and Champions Trophy winners Australia qualified for this event automatically whilst the other three nations — Belgium, Asian champions India and Pakistan – have been invited by the FIH executive board.National carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) used to be the sponsor whenever the Champions Trophy took place in Pakistan. Presently, the greenshirts are going through rebuilding process and no miracles are expected from them. Pakistan held their last phase of training camp in the Netherlands, playing two practice matches and winning both of them. The final 18-member squad was announced on June 19 after the two-week training camp had ended. “It is the final edition of the Champions Trophy and I am sure every team would want to make it memorable. Pakistan have the inaugural title of the competition to their name and we want the last edition to be ours too,” Rizwan was quoted as saying Friday. “It will be a challenging tournament with back-to-back matches and picking up those three points from every game will be the only thing on our minds in Breda,” he said. “The energy in the boys is at its peak and we are all optimistic about our chances of winning the tournament.” Pakistan finished as runners-up in the last edition they participated in 2014. Pakistan made it into the final of the 2014 edition with a historic 4-3 win over India courtesy a last-minute goal by Arslan Qadir. With hosts Netherlands, defending champions Australia and other traditional giants Argentina, India and Belgium also in the fray, Pakistan know they will have to be at their very best if they are to emerge from the tournament with any sort of credit. Over nine days of action, which includes a rest day on Monday (25 June), all teams will be focused on reaching the final, which will be played on Sunday (July 1), with the other classification matches being played earlier in the day. This will be one of the last opportunities for these teams to play against one another competitively before the end of this year’s Hockey Men’s World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India (November 28 – December 16).Schedule: June 23: India vs Pakistan, Netherlands vs Argentina, Australia vs BelgiumJune 24: India vs Argentina, Netherlands vs Belgium, Australia vs Pakistan June 25: REST DAYJune 26: Argentina vs Belgium, Netherlands vs Pakistan June 27: India vs AustraliaJune 28: Argentina vs Pakistan, India vs Belgium, Netherlands vs AustraliaJune 29: Belgium vs PakistanJune 30: Argentina vs Australia, Netherlands vs IndiaJuly 1: 5th-6th place classification match, 3rd-4th place classification match and FINAL.Published in Daily Times, June 23rd 2018.