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Businessman to fund Pakistan hockey team's expenses for CT

Karachi: Pakistan men's hockey team will take part in next month's Champions Trophy in India after a high-profile businessman and cricket fan has agreed to bear the expenses of the team for the tournament, a top official of the national federation said today.

Pakistan Hockey Federation secretary Rana Mujahid said that the players would be leaving for India on schedule as the financial issues facing the team have been resolved. "Nadeem Omar has kindly agreed to bear our expenses for the tournament which is very important for us," Mujahid told a press conference.

Participating teams have to not only arrange their own air travel but also pay for the five-star accommodation in for the December 6-14 event in Bhubaneswar. "It is a very expensive venture for us considering we are still awaiting special funds from the government to bail us out. At this time, the involvement of Nadeem Omar has bailed us out of an embarrassing situation," Mujahid said.

Omar is well known in Pakistan cricket circles for his passion and involvement in cricket and runs one of the most successful clubs and departmental sides by the name of Omar Associates in the country. Several Pakistan players including Asad Shafiq, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Anwar Ali, Shaan Masood are senior members of his team. Omar said he decided to become involved in hockey because it was the country's national sport and he could not bear to see the financial crunch it was facing.

"It is a small contribution from me to revive hockey in Pakistan," he said. PHF had said it would be difficult to send the team to India for the Champions Trophy unless they were given a special grant by the government. The financial crisis in the PHF has worsened to an extent where players have not been paid their central contract fees for the last one year while there was also talk about sending the team to India by road via the Wagah border.

Mujahid also announced that Muhammad Imran has been retained as captain of the team for the Champions Trophy while there were two changes in the 18-member squad with Rizwan (sr) and Rashid Mahmood replacing Azfar Yaqoob and Rizwan Ali. The selectors did not consider senior players including Shakeel Abbasi who opted to play foreign league in Malaysia instead of attending the training camp in Karachi.

The Pakistan squad will leave on December 2 for the tournament.

Pakistan Squad: Muhammad Imran, Imran Butt, Amjad Ali, Muhammad Irfan, Kashif Ali, Immad Butt, Taufiq Ahmed, Rashid Mahmood, Rizwan junior, Tasawar Abbas, Zohaib Ashraf, Waqas Ashraf, Shafqat Rasool, Arsalan Qadir, Umar Bhutta, Rizwan senior, Muhammad Dilbar and Shaan Ali.

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