RicCharlesworth
Photo Credits : Jack Atley/ALLSPORT

He is among the most famed coaches in world hockey. Think of accolades and there isn’t anything that Ric Charlesworth of Australia hasn’t achieved in his decorated career.

He was a member of the Australian hockey team having played 227 matches, and captained the team in the 1980 and the 1984 Olympics. When he took to coaching, he guided Australia’s women’s hockey team to gold medals in 1996 and 2000 while the men were crowned World Cup champions in 2010 and 2014 under his guidance.

And if that was not enough, Dr Charlesworth has been a parliamentarian — a position he held for 10 years — played cricket at the Under-19 level and also worked with football teams, besides writing a number of books.

It is no wonder that the world of hockey sits up and takes notice when the legendary coach has a point to make.

Charlesworth, who retired from hockey coaching four years ago, says he is “keen to see the game’s revival in Pakistan” as the country prepares to host a two-match series in Karachi and Lahore beginning January 18.

For years, Pakistan has been devoid of hosting international matches and the fans have been unable to see their heroes live in action, as teams and players shied away from travelling to the country because of security concerns. The last time Pakistan hosted a significant hockey tournament was way back in 2005.

Charlesworth hopes all this “will change” with the upcoming World XI vs Pakistan XI matches — an effort by the Pakistan Hockey Federation to revive the sport in the country — as a herd of former and present hockey stars are set to travel to Pakistan this week, marking a first for the country in almost a decade.

Said Charlesworth in an interview from Australia, “I hope the game gets a boost (through this series) and we can resume contact with Pakistan as the players are gifted and the game they play fast and skillful.

“I hope this venture is successful… I know some very good players will be there.”

Charlesworth, who is considered one of the shrewdest brains in world hockey, was among the five former greats invited by the Pakistan federation for the series. The PHF has plans to felicitate Charlesworth, Paul Litjens and Floris Jan Bovelander (both from the Netherlands), Germany’s Chris Blunck and Juan Escarre of Spain, honouring them in the Hall of Fame.

Charlesworth said he wouldn’t be able to travel to Pakistan as the “invitation landed late” but added that he has fond memories of the country.

“It was an honour to be invited. Unfortunately the invitation came too late and I couldn’t rearrange my schedule,” said the Australian legend, who guided the Hockeyroos to back-to-back Olympic golds in 1996 and 2000.

“I have always liked to travel to Pakistan… I first visited in 1975 and have been there around a dozen times.

“In those days, there was freedom to travel around the country, visit different places and see the sites.

“I always felt very welcome, but have not been there since 2004. In 2004, the atmosphere was much different and security concerns had increased.

“Of course all who travel would be concerned about security matters.”

Matches will be held in Karachi and Lahore on January 19 and 21, respectively.