Pakistani star Sohail Abbas signs for Punjab in Hong Kong league
The ambitious club have raised the stakes in their quest to win the local hockey title
Punjab Sports Club have raised the stakes in their quest to dominate hockey this season by signing up Pakistani Sohail Abbas and other international stars.
Abbas, a penalty-corner wizard, arrived in Hong Kong last Sunday and will be a "massive boost for the game", said leading official Sarinder Dillon.
"Sohail is easily the biggest name to play in Hong Kong and everyone must take this golden opportunity to see him in action," said Dillon, chairman of the Hong Kong Hockey Association, which this year is celebrating its 80th anniversary.
Abbas, whose drag-flick has become legendary, is a former Pakistan captain and an Olympian. He was a key member of the national team who won a gold medal at the 2010 Asian Games - defeating Malaysia 2-0 in the final - and holds the record for the most number of goals in international hockey at 348.
"We have had a few players in the past from Britain who were posted here on work, but no one as famous as Sohail Abbas," Dillon said. "Jamie Dwyer [Australian Olympian and world player of the year] has also appeared in Hong Kong but he was here for a tournament, unlike Sohail who will be here for the next couple of months."
Punjab Sports Club convenor Amarjeet Singh said Abbas would stay until the December break. He arrived with fellow Pakistani Olympian Waseem Ahmad.
Canadian Olympian Sukhwinder Singh Gabber also arrived as Punjab ramp up the pressure on the rest of the 12-team Premier League in a bid to win the silverware for the first time in the club's short history. Another Pakistan Olympian, Mudassar Ali Khan, is expected to join the club shortly.
"It is great to have Sohail Abbas and the rest of the overseas stars. While our main aim is to win the league, we believe the presence of such stars will help raise the profile of hockey in Hong Kong," said Singh.
"They will encourage youngsters to take up the game, not only in our club but among other clubs too.
Abbas, 38, a defender, will turn out for the first time for his new club on Sunday when Punjab take on KCC at Happy Valley.