It is a strange fact that the continent which till early 1980s had won more hockey Olympic gold medals and World Cup titles than the rest of the world combined had no exclusive hockey competition of its own.
The Asian hockey nations met in a regional meeting only during the Asian Games which is of course a multi-disciplinary sporting event.
This anomaly was noticed by a person no less than Rene Frank, the then president of International Hockey Federation (FIH) and he expressed his feelings in no uncertain terms. Rene Frank told A I S Dara of Pakistan, vice president of FIH, “not to talk about Asian hockey as only seven out of the 19 member countries of the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) play regular hockey.”
When Dara and Brig MH Atif got elected as president and vice-president of the AHF, respectively, they planned to boost hockey activities in Asia.
The AHF executive committee rightly dedicated the first Asia Cup, held in 1282 to the memory of Dara who expired in 1981. Dara was the brain behind the idea of the Asia Cup.
The first Asia Cup was scheduled to be played in Lahore, but it was shifted to Karachi due to persistent wet weather in Lahore.
In 2007, Pakistan had initially decided to skip the Asia Cup. The argument given was that the team was in a rebuilding stage so it would not participate in all the tourneys.
The federation justified the decision by saying that the other major hockey nations like Australia and Germany absent themselves from the Champions Trophy off and on. It was ridiculous to equate an annual tournament like Champions Trophy with a title tournament like Asia Cup held once in four years. Asia Cup’s winners are bestowed with the title of Asian champions for four years.
Later, under the pressure of the media and former hockey stalwarts, the federation buckled and entered the national team.
This year, Bangladesh capital Dhaka will be hosting the tournament for the second time.
Pool A: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Japan
Pool B: Malaysia, S Korea, China, Oman
The 2017 Asia Cup has added significance. After the conclusion of the Hockey World League semi-finals, Pakistan, India and Malaysia, among the Asian countries, have qualified for the next year’s World Cup.
The winners of the Asia Cup will also make it to the World Cup. Hence, it will be a great incentive for the teams other than the three sides already qualified. If any of the three qualified nations bags the Asia Cup, China should grab the place for the 2018 World Cup as they had finished 8th at the HWL semi-finals.
Ironically, Pakistan after winning the first three editions failed to win the title in the next six editions though they reached the final thrice.
Facts & Feats:
-In 2007, India scored 57 goals to create a new record for a single edition of the Asia Cup for any team. The previous record was Pakistan’s tally of 51 goals in the inaugural tournament (1982).
-In 2007, India defeated South Korea 7-2 in the final, a record margin of victory in any final.
-Pakistan, Malaysia and India share the record for the highest number of goals in a single match. In the 1993 event, both Pakistan and Malaysia defeated Thailand by an identical margin of 20-0. In 2007, India defeated Sri Lanka with the same score line.
-Pakistani goalkeeper Shahid Ali Khan has the unique distinction of being the member of three victorious Asia Cup teams.
-Pakistan’s legendary centre-forward Hasan Sardar with 26 goals in two editions is the overall top scorer for any team in Asia Cup history.
-In a single edition, the record for most goals is 16 shared by two Pakistanis: Hasan Sardar in 1982 and Sohail Abbas in 1999.
-Hasan Sardar also has the distinction of scoring the first hat-trick in the history of the Asia Cup (against Sri Lanka in 1982).
-Inside-left Haneef Khan scored Pakistan’s first ever goal in the Asia Cup (against Sri Lanka).
-Pakistan lost to South Korea 0-4 in the semi-final of the 1993 Asia Cup in Hiroshima. For Pakistan it was no less than a calamity as they achieved many dubious firsts. It was Pakistan’s first-ever defeat in Asia Cup (after 24 matches). They failed to finish in the top two for the first time. Pakistan lost to an Asian country by a margin exceeding three goals for the first time.
-In 1999, Pakistan had the Cup well within their grasp. In the final against South Korea, Pakistan led 4-2 well into the second half. But the Koreans in a remarkable recovery not only equalised but also gained the title by netting three quick goals to win the final 5-4.
-In the 2003 final, Pakistan and India were locked at 2-2 with a few minutes to go. All the four goals had been scored off penalty corners. However, India suddenly exploded and blasted two excellent field goals in the dying minutes to lift the Asia Cup for the first time.
-But what happened in 2007 was unbelievable. It was the first time that Pakistan failed to qualify for the semi-finals. They finished a miserable sixth.
-In 2009, the final between Pakistan and Korea was goalless until the 66th minute when Kim Byung Hoon converted a penalty corner to enable Korea to lift the Cup for the third time.
ROLL OF HONOUR
Edition Host 1st 2nd 3rd
1st (1982) Karachi (Pakistan) Pakistan India China
2nd (1985) Dhaka (Bangladesh) Pakistan India South Korea
3rd (1989) New Delhi (India) Pakistan India South Korea
4th (1993) Hiroshima (Japan) South Korea India Pakistan
5th (1999) Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) South Korea Pakistan India
6th (2003) Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) India Pakistan South Korea
7th (2007) Chennai (India) India South Korea Malaysia
8th (2009) Kuantan (Malaysia) South Korea Pakistan China
9th (2013) Ipoh (Malaysia) South Korea India Pakistan