ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) has finally assured the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) of providing boarding/lodging, dailies, accommodation of 18 players and four officials for the Olympic qualifiers staring from June 20 in Belgium.

Talking to The Nation Wednesday, PSB Director General Technical and Training Dr Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera confirmed that the PSB would bear expenditures amounting Rs 25 million. “We have received next year grant on Wednesday. As soon as visas to the players and officials will be issued, we will immediately provide what we have promised. I have already given instructions of preparing tickets of the 22 persons and soon after the visas are issued, the tickets will be provided to them.”

He said they were ready to lend helping hand to not only hockey but also to other sports and federations. “It is our job to provide maximum facilities to athletes, who bring laurels for the country.”

PHF secretary Rana Mujahid completely rubbished claims of the federations' negligence for applying late for Belgium visas. “The matter of the fact is that we applied for visas 10 days back. Almost 10 days are required for visa process. All the other teams have already reached Belgium and training and adjusting to the conditions, but we are running from post to pillar to arrange funds. We have already missed three practice matches against USA and there is a chance, we may also miss remaining two practice matches against Ireland. I am quite hopeful the visas will be issued by 13th and the team will depart on 14th. If they leave on 14th, it will ensure the team will get some time to adjust to conditions and play practice matches.”

Head coach Shahnaz Sheikh described his teams' preparations satisfactory. “It would have been ideal, had we left for Belgium earlier. But even now the time is not passed yet, if provided with tickets and other things timely, we could reach Belgium by 15th and play practice match against Ireland on 16th and 18th before the real action starts on 20th against Poland.”

“I once again request the PSB to at least release incentives of Champions Trophy and Asian Games to the players so they may get some relief. We are working for the sheer love for the country for the last one year without getting a single penny. Timely release of funds can make a huge difference and will help in boosting the players’ morals,” Shahnaz concluded.