Abbottabad fast becoming no-go area for sports

Days after the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) dropped the city as a venue for the one-day series between Pakistan A and visiting Afghanistan side, the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) also scrapped plans to have an extensive training there ahead of its team's Europe tour.

According to 'The News', PHF was forced to move an elite training camp from Abbottabad to Islamabad after their Dutch coach refused to supervise the exercise in the garrison town where osama was gunned down by US special forces.

Quoting sources, the report said that Michel van den Heuvel - Pakistan’s national coach - threatened to walk away from the 15-day training camp if the PHF went ahead with plans to stage the camp in Abbottabad.

"When Michel learnt that the PHF has decided to hold the training camp in Abbottabad, he didn’t like the idea. The coach told senior PHF officials that he would feel safer if the camp took place in either Lahore or Islamabad,” said the source.

Osama’s killing in Abbottabad was the main reason why van den Heuvel decided against going to the hill city. PHF chiefs and other senior Pakistan team officials tried to convince the Dutchman that Abbottabad was a perfectly safe venue but he remained adamant that he would not attend the camp there.

The PHF wanted its players to have some high-altitude training in Abbottabad in a bid to improve their fitness ahead of a month-long tour of Europe which will begin from June 16.

Pakistan are to feature in two four-nation tournaments in Ireland and the Netherlands besides playing several Test matches against European teams during the tour which is seen as an important event ahead of next year’s Olympic Games in London. However, under pressure from their coach, the PHF announced that it will stage the camp in Islamabad from May 30. In a similar move, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB)  Thursday moved a one-day game between Afghanistan and Pakistan A from Abbottabad to Islamabad.

Van den Heuvel was appointed as Pakistan’s coach almost a year ago after the Greenshirts crashed to a humiliating last-place finish at last year’s World Cup in New Delhi. Van den Heuvel, who was sacked as Netherland’s coach after the Dutch flopped in the World Cup, was the only foreigner ready to take up the Pakistan assignment in spite of security concerns.

Before offering the job to van den Heuvel, the PHF sounded out German coach Paul Lissek and Australia’s Barry Dancer, but both turned down the offer because of security apprehensions.

Under the Dutchman, Pakistan flopped miserably at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi but bounced back to win the gold at the Asian Games in Guangzhou (China) for the first time in 20 years.

Van den Heuvel did express reservations about carrying on as Pakistan’s coach after the Asian Games mainly because of security concerns. However, the PHF managed to assuage his fears through assurances of best possible security after which he agreed to stay on as Pakistan coach till the 2012 Olympics.

But he only comes to Pakistan to supervise national training camps and during his stay here is confined to the hockey stadium and his hotel.

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