Forgotten! Featured

Sunday, 09 March 2014 18:16

He was hailed as a successor to the great Sohail Abbas, one of Pakistan’s most successful hockey players. There were plenty of solid reasons behind the belief that Imran Warsi will go on to emulate the achievements of Sohail Abbas — the short corner specialist who holds the world record for scoring most goals in international hockey.

After all, as a young short corner expert Imran possessed both power and accuracy in his strike that resembled Sohail’s trademark drag flick.

Imran made his bones as a drag flick expert in his salad days as a hockey player and it seemed he would cement his place in the national team alongside Sohail Abbas.

He did play an important role in Pakistan’s campaign at the international junior level and then went on to play for the country’s senior team.

He featured in international junior events such as England Series (2000), Six-Nation Tournament (Egypt, 2001), Malaysian Hockey League (2002), Malaysian Series (2003), Holland Series (2003), Asia Cup 2004 (top goal-scorer), Four-Nation Hockey Tournament in Pakistan (top goal-scorer, 2004), Six-Nation Tournament in Malaysia (top goal-scorer, 2004), Junior World Cup (Rotterdam, Holland 2005).

Imran went on to play for Pakistan at the senior level in the Indian Series (2004); Champions Trophy (India, 2005); Hamburg Masters Tournament (Germany, 2005); Rabo Bank Tournament (Holland, 2005, where Pakistan won gold medal); Azlan Shah Cup (2005); PHL Hockey League, India (2005), Indian Series (2006), Commonwealth Games, Australia (2006), World Cup Qualifiers (China, 2006), Azlan Shah Cup (2006), South Asian Games (2006) and Asian Games (2006).  However, at the peak of his career, Imran was axed from the national team after he fell out with the country’s hockey chiefs. Heartbroken, Imran left Pakistan in search of greener pastures and after featuring in various leagues he finally settled in Russia where currently he is one of the biggest stars in the country’s fast-rising hockey league.

Recently, Imran spoke with ‘The News on Sunday’ on various issues like the standard of the Russian Hockey League and whether he would be available for national duty if needed by the Pakistan team.

Here are some excerpts:

The News on Sunday: You have been out of Pakistan hockey for a long time. Where have you been all this while?

Imran Warsi: I have been out of Pakistan hockey team for almost six years. But during these six years, I have been playing in domestic tournaments in different countries, especially in Russia.

I have been playing in Europe for some time now and I have learnt many new things which I didn’t know when I had been playing in Pakistan team. I am thankful to God and I am also very indebted to my parents as they have always supported me.

TNS: Which league and for what team have you been playing in Russia and how has been your performance there?

IW: I have been in Russian Hockey League, representing Dinamo Kazan hockey club. I have been top goal scorer in Russian Hockey League successively for four years. Last year I completed 200-goal mark in the Russian League. Our club also participated in Euro Hockey League where I played 10 games and scored nine goals. My name has also been mentioned in top goal scorers list.

In 2012, I also played World Hockey Series in India and was the top goal scorer in that league with a total of 19 goals and was declared the best player.

TNS: You have coached youngsters. How was that experience and what prospects do you see of hockey in Russia?

IW: Yes, I have been coaching small kids and youngsters in Russia. They are eager to learn how to flick and also want to learn other hockey skills from me. Russia has been making good progress in the game and I see good future of Russia in international hockey arena.

TNS: If given a chance, would you want to represent Pakistan?

IW: I have always been available for Pakistan hockey team but it depends on the people managing hockey affairs in Pakistan. If they want me to join and represent Pakistan once more, I will gladly join Pakistan hockey team again as it is a great honour for me to represent my national team.

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