Lahore’s National Hockey Stadium is set to host the second of the two-match World XI vs Pakistan XI Hall of Fame hockey series, as the teams reached the city on Saturday.
World XI, led by Holland’s Roderick Weusthof, defeated a young Pakistan XI 5-1 in the opening match in Karachi and despite the scoreline heavily in favour of the visiting hockey stars, the home boys too gave a good account of themselves.
On Saturday, the teams spent time meeting dignitaries followed by an official dinner as they geared up for the Sunday showdown, that is expected to see large crowds.
Floris Jan Bovelander of the Netherlands, who was among one of the former greats who were honoured at the event, praised the preparations and said they were enjoying their time in Pakistan and felt safe.
Said Bovelander on the teams’ arrival in Lahore, “It has been wonderful so far. Pakistan has sent out a message of peace and sportsmanship and we have loved every single moment of our stay here.
“The arrangements are well in place and the players are getting to spend time together and understanding each other’s culture.
“For some of them, it is the first time in Pakistan and it is unique experience. We were very happy to see the Pakistan team in action and they gave the World XI a good fight on Friday.”
The series is an effort from the Pakistan Hockey Federation to provide their youngsters with exposure and also set the ground for international players to travel to the country, as the federation prepares to launch the Pakistan Hockey League — a city-based league — in April.
Said PHF secretary Shahbaz Ahmed, “It is a good sign for our hockey that the World XI is playing in Pakistan and it is a big achievement on part of the PHF to convince world known players to play here as we have been deprived of high-profile events because of security situation in our country.
“The Word XI tour has its own significance in many ways to bring back international hockey to Pakistan. It provides an ideal opportunity to our young players to play alongside the masters of hockey and to motivate the youth to take up hockey professionally.”
On Sunday, the young Pakistan lot will look to make amends and finish on a winning note in front of their fans.
Said Grant Schubert of Australia, a member of the World XI, “It was great to get to finally play the game in Karachi. Although the crowd was small, the vibe within the group was amazing. (We) guys found it a little tough to play with each other in the beginning and were really put under pressure by the young Pakistan team. “In the second half, we began to find our groove and possess the ball more which created many more opportunities for us. We are happy with the 5-1 result and look forward to another tough game in Lahore.”
The match will be telecast live on PTV Sports and will begin at 2 pm.