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Page last updated at 12:09 GMT, Tuesday, 30 November 2010
Pakistan hockey men bid to revive glory days

Pakistan hockey team
The Pakistan hockey team celebrate their eighth Asian Games title

By Mukesh Sharma
BBC Hindi service in Guangzhou

Pakistan's men's hockey team have qualified for the 2012 London Olympics by winning gold at the Asian Games.

They defeated Malaysia 2-0 to secure their eighth hockey gold at this event and first since Beijing in 1990.

Veteran Sohail Abbas scored the first goal in the 26th minute by converting a penalty corner.

Striker Rehan Butt sealed the win in the 38th minute by finishing a pass sent in by Shafqat Rasool from the right flank.

Manager Khwaja Junaid reacts to a rapturous welcome home in Lahore

Malaysia's players shaved their heads before the game to ward off evil spirits but their penalty corner specialist Amin Rahim was unable to find the target from three short corners.

The win caps a torrid year for Pakistan after the three time Olympic champions finished last in March's World Cup and were humiliated by arch rivals India at the Commonwealth Games.

Significantly, it also means they are guaranteed a place at the London Olympics in 2012.

As the final whistle blew, goalkeeper Salman Akbar threw his helmet and stick in the air while the rest of the players dropped to their knees in prayer.

Speaking to the BBC after the match Akbar dedicated the win to the people of Pakistan.

"I would like to dedicate this win to the whole country. With terrorism and so many bad things happening in Pakistan, I pray that the situation improves. We are so glad that we have brought this happiness to our nation," he said.

He couldn't even sleep the night before the finals and says that now the team wants to focus on the London Olympics.

35-year-old Sohail Abbas was included in the team to share his experience with a relatively young side and he ended the tournament with seven goals.

He has played more than 280 matches but has no plans to announce his retirement.

Rehan Butt (L)
Rehan Butt (L) gets past Malaysia's Muhammad Rahim

"Sports has no age, it's a matter of fitness. Sport is my passion and while I'm alive I'll be part of my country and my team," he said.

Pakistan lost just one match in the tournament and that was against India. Goalkeeper Akbar claimed that the key to victory in Guangzhou, China was not losing focus after that match.

"We didn't come here to beat only India, we came here to win the gold so we remained focus even after that match and today we won," he said.

After the victory Rehan Butt remarked that the team now has plenty of time to prepare for the Olympics while captain Zeeshan Ashraf commended the team for working so hard.

"We finished last in the World Cup and in the Commonwealth Games our performance wasn't great but then we practised a lot and finally got to this position," Ashraf said.

He went on to say that team had focused especially on strategy ahead of the final.

"Malaysia was the unbeaten team in this tournament and though we had won our last encounter we took them very seriously and planned accordingly. We knew that their counter attack is very strong so we worked on it and handled them well.

"Now our focus is on the Olympics as Pakistan hasn't won an Olympic gold for quite some time and this team has the ability to win a gold in London," said Ashraf.

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see also
Pakistan hockey stars slam loss
11 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
India thrash Pakistan in hockey
10 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Inside the mind of hockey's sleeping giant
09 Oct 10 |  World Olympic Dreams
The future of Pakistani hockey
26 Jul 10 |  World Olympic Dreams
Hockey men bid to revive glory days
26 Jul 10 |  World Olympic Dreams
Pakistan team quit after cup flop
11 Mar 10 |  Hockey

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