Rana Asif Maqsood does not have a full-sized field hockey pitch for his team to play on. His field does not have grass on it or goals to shoot at. In fact, his team does not even have goalkeepers yet or another team to play against. But none of this has stemmed his enthusiasm for establishing Cambodia’s first-ever national field hockey team.
Maqsood left his native Pakistan in 1999 when his professional field hockey playing days came to an end. “It was in my mind to set up a hockey team in any country that did not have a team,” he said. After brief stays in Vietnam and Thailand, he settled on Cambodia.
After a chance meeting with M Singh, the founder of the Leadership and Character Development Institute, Maqsood finally had a sponsor. Last November Maqsood began training 32 students between the ages of 16 and 20.
“We are very sports-minded,” said Singh, whose institute was established to provide continuing education to students who have dropped out of school.
Maqsood’s students, who are split evenly between a men’s and women’s team, spend three hours each morning and three hours each evening training. Maqsood recognizes the challenge before him, but says that training his Cambodian squad has taken less time than Pakistani teams he has coached in the past because he is able to spend every minute of every day with his players, who live at the school.
Last August the Ministry of Youth, Education and Sport agreed in principal to the establishment of a national team in a letter signed by Undersecretary of State Bon Chum Sery. LCDI just acquired a 13-hectare plot of land in Kompong Spieu province, and Maqsood expects to be training his squad on a full-sized field by May.
Maqsood hopes to invite a club or university team from Thailand later this year and then the Thai national team in January. He hopes to enter Cambodia in the SEA Games in Hanoi in November 2003.