On the special invitation of Khawaja Junaid Hockey Academy, the well-known Dutch club Bully Ozendaal will visit for seven days in February.
It is the first time a European club has visited Pakistan in 21 years, with Orange and Black visiting Pakistan in 2001.
This visit has been organized in celebration of 75 years of diplomatic relations between Holland and Pakistan.
Pakistan and Holland are old rivals in hockey. Holland defeated Pakistan in the final of the 1990 Hockey World Cup and Pakistan defeated the Dutch hockey team in 1994.
On the occasion of this tour, along with hockey matches, photo exhibition of the matches played between Holland and Pakistan will also be organized.
Bully Men 1 will travel to Pakistan next February, the country of their coach Fareed Ahmed. The Oldenzaal team will play three matches there in the largest hockey stadium in the world. What started as a joke became reality.
‘The down payment for the airline tickets has been made. We must pay the rest of the amount thirty days before departure. Yes, it is very special. It is the first time for many of my teammates outside Europe. I had to apply for a passport,” says 26-year-old Ruben Kattier.
The story starts in a car. Somewhere along the way during the preparation for the season, Kattier’s teammate Jan-Willem Wijnbergen jokingly suggested to his coach that the team could also go to Pakistan in the winter.
Ahmed responds that it is not that expensive to travel to Pakistan. Kattier and his teammates listen to their coach, but the conversation quickly fades into the background.
Sander Baart in a duel with Fareed Ahmed of Pakistan in the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy in Melbourne between the Orange Men and Pakistan (5-2) in 2012. Photo: ANP/Koen Suyk
Invitation from Pakistan
But coach Ahmed takes the funny comment seriously and sets to work on making the idea a reality. Ahmed, 34, is a former Pakistan international. He played with the national team at the London Olympics in 2012 and won bronze at the Champions Trophy that same year. Since 2017, Ahmed has lived with his wife in Hengelo.
When the conversation in the car comes up again after a few weeks, Ahmed says that an invitation from Pakistan is on the table. “When we heard that, we thought: this is very serious.”
The invitation comes from the hockey academy in Lahore from one of Ahmed’s best friends and former teammate. ‘Fareed said to us: if you pay for your plane ticket, we will do the rest. The hotel, facilities, guidance and transfers are all arranged. Then I carefully looked on Skyscanner to see how expensive the flight tickets to Lahore are.’
Kattier sees that a ticket costs about seven to eight hundred euros per person. “That’s a lot of money, but if everything else is paid for, it’s not too bad.”
Each player puts in five hundred euros, says Kattier. The rest of the amount must be raised through sponsorship campaigns. The team sells two hundred club scarves. “We have almost reached the amount.”
Ruben Kattier in action for Bully Heren 1. Photo: Private photo Ruben Kattier
Collecting goalkeeper equipment
In return for the invitation, the team is collecting goalkeeper equipment to distribute in Pakistan. ‘We have appealed to clubs in the region. For example, I also drove to Voordaan to pick up things. There is now a lot of goalkeeper equipment in someone’s shed.’
Although there is a lot of enthusiasm for the trip, there are also concerns. Security concerns in Pakistan. If you look at the government’s website, you will see many areas where traveling is not recommended. The area around Lahore is colored yellow. This means that you can travel to the city, but there are risks.
‘Safety did raise questions. The subject has often been discussed within the team, but Fareed was able to convince us and remove our doubts,” Kattier explains.
Lahore is the second largest city in Pakistan after Karachi and has a staggering population of almost fourteen million. The city is also home to the largest hockey stadium in the world: National Hockey Stadium. It has a capacity of 45,000 seats. To make a comparison: Oldenzaal has just over 32,000 inhabitants.
National Hockey Stadium in Lahore, Pakistan
Experiencing the culture
The guys from Bully will be in Lahore from February 17 to 25. The current number four of the Second Division will play three matches, train and give a clinic.
‘In the past seven years we have been to Barcelona twice and once to Valencia. This was accompanied by fun and celebration. This time will be different, a different approach. We also want to experience the culture in Pakistan,” says Kattier.
Although the last things still have to be arranged, such as visas, the countdown has already started. ‘We have been together as a team for a long time. At the end of the season a number of boys will retire. The journey is a kind of farewell, a beautiful ending. We’re going to try to film as much as possible and put it on Instagram. I have a feeling that we can pave the way for other teams.”