Grant Schubert
Australia's Grant Schubert celebrates scoring against Pakistan at Beijing's Olympic Green Hockey Stadium. (Photo by Tony Marshall - EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images)

Named World Hockey’s Young Player of the Year in 2003, Striker Grant Schubert has been central to Australia’s successful sojourn in international hockey.

A forward par excellence, Schubert was a member of the gold medal winning team in the 2004 Olympic Games — the Kookaburras’ only Olympic hockey gold so far — and has many records to his name.

Grant Schubert, retired in 2012, but he continues to love playing in the subcontinent. The 37-year-old Schubert will be a part of the World XI vs Pakistan exhibition series in Pakistan from January 18 to 21. He hopes that the series will pave the way for international hockey’s return to the country.

Excerpts from an interview.

Q. The World XI series in Pakistan from January 18 to 21 marks the return of hockey to Pakistan. What are your thoughts as you are going to be a part of it?

I am really looking forward to playing in the World XI team. It’s been some time since retiring from the Australian Kookaburras in 2012 and I am so excited to have the opportunity of playing at an international standard once again.

Although, my body might be a little older and slower, my mind and competitiveness spirit is still there. It will also be great to catch up play with some old hockey foes I haven’t seen in some time and play alongside. People of Pakistan love their hockey so, to play in front of them and hopefully some large crowds, will be very, very exciting.

I really hope world hockey gets behind this. It’s great to be involved with the tour and hopefully one day, World Hockey will once again be playing in front of 50,000 strong crowds.

Q. Pakistan last hosted a hockey tournament more than a decade ago. There were security concerns after the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009. Did you have any concerns before accepting the invitation to visit Pakistan? How did you decide to be a part of this series? 

Well, there are concerns almost anywhere you go these days and certain things are always taken into consideration. I have sorted advice from a number of sources and from people who have been to Pakistan and people I am travelling with and decided to go. It’s going to be an amazing hockey experience.

Q. Pakistan fans love their sport and sportsmen. What kind of reception are you expecting?

It sure will be an amazing reception. Pakistan love their sport and their hockey. I am expecting there to be a lot of excitement and passion shown by the hockey lovers of Pakistan. I think it will be great for the kids also and something for them to look forward to.

Q. Have you had a chance to play in Pakistan before? 

This will be the first time I would play in Pakistan. I remember the first time I played in India and how much the Indian Fans got behind their teams. I am expecting something similar to happen in Karachi and Lahore from the Pakistan fans.

Q. Do you think this series could mark a return of international hockey to Pakistan?

I definitely hope so. When starting my international career, I remember how tough they were to play against and how no matter where they played people would turn up in droves to support them. I have heard many stories of back in the day when international matches were being played in front of 50,000 people in Lahore. I can only imagine what an amazing experience that would be. If that could once again happen, it would be a great boost for World Hockey and Players.

Q. You have been one of the most decorated players of Australian hockey with an Olympic gold medal in 2004 and understand how important a role crowd plays for a team. The current generation of Pakistan players have never had the opportunity to play in front of the home crowd. How do you think it affects a team’s progress?

The crowd can play a huge role in getting the home team over the line in games. The atmosphere and the feeling it creates always gets you a little more fired up and can be intimidating for the opposition.

I have always loved playing at home but only once got to play in front of my family and friends in Adelaide. It was a very special experience and one I’ll never forget. I feel it will be a similar experience for Pakistani players. Finally, a chance for their families to see them pull on the green shirt and watch them play at home. I think for some it will be a bit emotional.

The crowd, i also believe has a huge impact on the younger generation. There is nothing better than kids seeing their heroes’ play in the flesh and seeing it with their own eyes and being able to interact with them, get photos and signatures. etc. Every kid dreams of that and inspires them to become better.