LAHORE: At the ongoing Tokyo Olympic Games 2020 in Japan, the Pakistan Olympic Association has sent only ten athletes. A nation of 220 million is being represented by just ten sportspersons. The 10 comprised seven men and three women, competing in athletics, badminton, judo, shooting, swimming, and weightlifting. Before that, at the Rio Olympic Games 2016, Pakistan had its smallest-ever contingent: just seven athletes. Since 1948, hockey had been Pakistan’s main hope for an Olympic medal. The hockey squad always formed a major part of Pakistan’s Olympic contingent. It is lamentable that Pakistan hockey, which remained up in the clouds for more than three decades, is not the same force that it used to be, and failed to qualify for two consecutive Olympic Games: Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. Pakistan hockey, which inspired millions around the globe, has failed to win a single Olympic medal of any colour since 1992 Barcelona. A look at Pakistan hockey’s performances at the world’s biggest sports extravaganza: Pakistan participated in Olympics 16 times. The only absence was in 1980 at Moscow, when many nations boycotted the Olympics in protest against the former Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. All the other sports have yielded a total of two bronze medals, won by wrestler Mohammad Bashir (1960) and boxer Hussain Shah (1988). From 1956 to 1972, Pakistan appeared in five consecutive Olympics finals, earning two gold and three silver medals.From 1956 to 1984, Pakistan earned a medal in every Olympics through hockey (barring 1980 when they had boycotted): three gold, three silver medals and one bronze.The year 1988 was the first time when the green-shirts failed to reach the semifinals. Since 1992, when they won the bronze medal, Pakistan have failed to win any medal.Pakistan hockey has always been on the podium for 36-years — from 1956 to 1992.Unfortunately, the standard of hockey has really deteriorated for quite some time in the country which is evident from the fact that the national hockey team has not won an Olympic medal for the last 29 years, what to speak of other games. The Tokyo Olympics are the second consecutive time that Pakistan hockey has missed the multi-sport event. It also failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup for the first time in history and finished a dismal 12th in the 2018 edition. For a country whose national sport is field hockey, missing out on back-to-back Olympic Games is nothing less than a catastrophe for the followers. 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 is incorrigible and confirmed Pauper. It has reached its nadir. For anyone growing up watching hockey, few teams personified big-match temperament and swagger like Pakistan. Today, though, that swagger has faded, and the entire edifice on which Pakistan hockey rests, lies teetering on the edge. The sport, for which the country was world-renowned, is now a picture of apathy. Spectator-less stadiums, no international tours, inept PHF, declining numbers of players and a virtual media blackout are enough proof that the nation has lost interest in hockey. It is so unfortunate that this shocking and continuous decline has put Pakistan team, who were consistently among the top four, at 18th position in the latest world rankings.It is heart breaking that nations like France, Malaysia, Wales, Japan, South Africa and Ireland are ahead of Pakistan in top 20 world rankings. In Asia, India are at top while Pakistan are at fifth position. Failure to adapt with modernism: Some experts have concluded that Pakistan hockey is ‘dead’ while others, showing minor optimism at best, consider it to be ‘on a ventilator’. Pakistan hockey’s decline started in the 1980s. Many experts believe the introduction of artificial turf in the 1970s started to affect the performance of Pakistan and Indian players. Both were labelled the ‘kings of grass’. The game evolved over the years, demanding better fitness but Pakistan were left behind in the race. Cricket, the most popular sport in the country, has overshadowed hockey with nurseries of hockey — schools and educational institutes — replaced hockey outfits with cricket. Over the years, the incompetent Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) officials have faced allegations of embezzlement and misuse of government funds besides being widely criticised for poor planning. For the mandarins who run the hockey show, though, the priorities lay elsewhere. The harsh truth is that the national sport has been reduced to a game of musical chairs, where the officials and former Olympians of yesteryear have taken turns to deprive hockey of both prestige and funds. The hockey legends who took Pakistan to glory in the past have also been accused of selfish behaviour. Former players have continuously opposed appointments of foreign coaches but when they got opportunities to coach the national team, they failed repeatedly. The PHF also didn’t manage hockey properly. They did not give opportunities to players on merit. Lack of funds has hampered players’ international exposure which requires travelling. Pakistan hockey’s failure to adapt with modern hockey has also affected it a lot. Pakistan hockey structure lacks in terms of skills and competitiveness. The very base of the game has shrunk beyond belief. 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. There is no doubt that country’s national sport, having so much pride and passion, has gone to the dogs. Building a strong team is not an overnight process and it takes years to put together a balanced side keeping in view the modern approach to competitive international hockey, and the exacting scientific preparations that the international teams now favour. The standard of the game is changing so rapidly that the gap between the best and the second in line has narrowed considerably. In fact, the difference between the four top teams has become so small that whenever any two of them meet it is very difficult to predict the outcome 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. Only then the elusive triumphs will replace the current tragedies that demean the team once basking in Olympic golds and world crowns. In the absence of these, we should not dream of reaching for the skies! Honours and recognition: Since its breakthrough in the 1948 Summer Olympics, Pakistan has won more than 20 official titles, which are detailed below: World Cup: Gold medal: 1971, 1978, 1982, 1994 Silver medal: 1975, 1990 FIH Champions Trophy: Gold medal: 1978, 1980, 1994 Silver medal: 1983, 1984, 1988, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2014 Bronze medal: 1986, 1992, 1995, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2012, Summer Olympics: Gold medal: 1960 Rome, 1968 Mexico City, 1984 Los Angeles Silver medal: 1956 Melbourne, 1964 Tokyo, 1972 Munich Bronze medal: 1976 Montreal, 1992 Barcelona Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: Gold medal: 1998, 2000, 2003 Silver medal: 1983, 1987, 1991, 1994, 2004, 2011 Bronze medal: 1985, 2005 Asian Champions Trophy: Gold medal: 2012, 2013, 2018 Silver medal: 2011, 2016 Asia Cup: Gold medal: 1982, 1985, 1989 Silver medal: 1999, 2003, 2009 Bronze medal: 1993, 2013, 2017 Asian Games: Gold medal: 1958, 1962, 1970, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1990, 2010 Silver medal: 1966, 1986, 2014 Bronze medal: 1994, 1998, 2006 Commonwealth Games: Silver medal: 2006 Bronze medal: 2002 South Asian Games: Gold medal: 2006, 2010, 2016 Silver medal: 1995 Afro-Asian Games: Silver medal: 2003 Hockey Champions Challenge: Silver medal: 2009.