KARACHI: Pakistan colts proved their continental domination at the innovative five-a-side format when they clinched the second U16 Asia Cup, overcoming Bangladesh 5-3 in the final in Singapore yesterday.
The budding Pakistan players shined throughout the 10-nation event and remained unbeaten to stand on top of the podium.
However, victory did not come as easy for the Pakistan side. The team, which recorded easy wins over Chinese Taipei, Japan, Chinam Sri Lanka and Malaysia, had to face a stiff challenge from Bangladesh which also advanced to the final after recording heavy wins over their opponents.
But rising star Mohammad Atiq, who scored a flurry of goals earlier in the event, proved to be the difference with a crucial brace that gave his side the 5-3 win.
Sikandar Mustafa, Shan Irshad and Adeel Latif were the other scorers in the victory.
A big achievement: Butt
Meanwhile, Olympian Rehan Butt, coach of the U16 side, termed the triumph a big achievement.
“It wasn’t an easy challenge for the youngsters,” Butt told The Express Tribune from Singapore after the win. “Considering their lack of international experience as compared to players from other teams, it’s a big achievement.”
He also praised the young side for showing their skills in the newly-introduced five-a-side pattern.
“Definitely, we were unsure of our team’s performance in the tournament since the new format was being played for the firs time. But the confidence and performance displayed is commendable. They have proved that there is a lot of talent present in the country.”
Butt added that the win will also help the young players in the traditional 11-a-side hockey as they progress from the U16 level.
“This pattern demands individual efforts which will definitely improve a player’s game. By playing on this pattern, which is very fast, the players can also lift their game for the regular style of hockey. I can foresee future Pakistan superstars with my assessment of players in this U16 team.”
Thumbs up to five-a-side hockey
Since it was the first time an official tournament was played on the pattern, Butt, who is also a seasoned Pakistan striker, gave a thumbs-up to the innovation.
“This pattern is like the Twenty20 format in cricket,” said the former captain. “It’s very exciting because of its pace. It demands more fitness and stamina. The altered rules have also made it an interesting format.”
The breakup of this pattern includes three sessions of 12 minutes with an interval of a couple of minutes in between.
The other big differences with the traditional hockey are the size of the pitch, which is 55m long x 41.70m wide — around half the size of a normal pitch.
The rules are simplified as compared to traditional hockey. There are no circles, teams may shoot from anywhere, there are no penalty corners and challenges replace penalty strokes. A challenge is effectively a one on one between an attacker and a defending goal-keeper.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2013.