Pakistan opt out of Azlan Shah Hockey tournament

KUALA LUMPUR: Pakistan have pulled out of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

The Pakistanis informed the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) of their decision on Friday night but did not give any reason for their withdrawal.

MHC secretary-general Datuk Johari Abdul Aziz said that they will keep the event a six-nation affair as there is no time to invite another team as replacement.

The teams in the fray now are Canada, South Korea, South Africa, China, Australia and Malaysia. The tournament will be held from March 13-23 in Ipoh.

“We have no idea why they withdrew. All they said is that they are unable to take part this year. We are also unable to shorten the duration of the meet as most teams have already confirmed their travel arrangements.

“The fixtures will be reviewed. We will have to let the FIH ratify it first before releasing it,” he said on Saturday.

This year’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup has taken a major hit with nations not being able to field their best teams. India is absent for the first time since the tournament’s inception in 1983.

France had also initially entered a team but opted out when they were invited to play in the Champions Challenge I in Kuantan in April replacing the South Africans.

Australia is the defending champions and they are also likely to field a mixed team.

But for Australia, South Korea, South Africa and Malaysia, the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is also the start of their World Cup journey. All four teams have already qualified for the Finals which will be held in The Hague, Holland from May 31-June 15.

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