The late Manzoor Hussain Junior was one of the greatest hockey players Pakistan has ever produced
The legendary Manzoor Hussain Junior is no more with us. Manzoor left us to make his maker late last month. He was a dear friend and a colleague. We played together for the Pakistan team for many years. I must say that his immense contributions to Pakistan hockey are unforgettable.
As a hockey player, his qualities were unlimited. Pakistan has produced many great hockey players over the years but Manzoor Jr stood tall over most of them. His track record speaks for itself. He is the only player who had all the major gold medals in his cabinet. He was captain of the Pakistan team which won the Junior World Cup title in 1979. That gold medal remains the only one for Pakistan in the Junior World Cup as we are still waiting to win another one after so many years. Manzoor won the World Cup gold medals and was also one of the heroes of the 1984 Olympic gold. That title also remains our last Olympic crown.
He was a treat to watch on the hockey field. I still have vivid memories of some of the greatest goals scored by him. One of my favourite goals by him was the one he scored in the 1982 World Cup final against West Germany. He took possession of the ball from the halfline and after beating almost a dozen of our opponents secured the goal from the top of the circle. It was one of his finest goals. I have had the honour of playing with some of the greatest hockey players of all time but I must say that Manzoor was something else especially when it came to ball control. When he would be on the move it would seem that the ball just followed his instructions.
Manzoor Jr acted as the engine and goal-scoring machine for the Pakistan team. You name any mega event and he was one of the stars for Pakistan. He belonged to my hometown Sialkot. He was also a member of my local team which produced almost ten international players for Pakistan including six Olympians. In our era, the club system was very effective. After partition there was a very good system in place. Sports came under the Education Ministry. That system helped Pakistan produce several legends and Manzoor Jr was one of the finest of them. I hope that our authorities once again revert to a similar system where hockey can be promoted among clubs, schools, colleges and universities and the best players then can be groomed at the departmental level just like it happened in the past.
Here I would like to recall Manzoor Jr's humbleness off the field. Despite all his skills and talent, Manzoor was a very humble human being. He was a gentle soul off the field. Even on the field he refrained from displaying aggression despite the fact that our rival teams would see him as the biggest threat.
In the 1975 World Cup final against India In Malaysia, he told me during the interval that Indian fullback Surjeet Singh was abusing him. During the first half Manzoor was unstoppable and the Indians wanted to counter his threat which is why they had started to abuse him. So I told him to give the Indian defender a taste of his own medicine. But Manzoor was too polite to do it. He said that instead I will punish him by making him run all over the place with my dribbling. He did that and it was a treat to watch the way he toyed with the Indian defence. There were a lot of such memories. His dedication and commitment were exemplary.
I also remember the time when he was making his bones as an upcoming junior player. At that time I had joined PIA and we were in Multan to play in the National Championship. He called me to inform me that he was not selected to play for Lahore Zone (Sialkot came under Lahore zZone at that time). I spoke to Hidayatullah (elder brother of Samiullah) that Manzoor should be included in the Bahawalpur Zone team. He played for them and within two years was called up for national duty.
Thankfully he was given a timely chance otherwise I have seen many players spoiled by not getting proper opportunities.
On 10th of September all of us gathered at the residence of Brig Khalid Khokhar, President of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) where we remembered this great national hero. The PHF chief announced that a tournament will be held annually in memory of Manzoor Jr. I was present there and requested that efforts should be made to name the stadium in Sialkot after the legendary Manzoor Jr. We have to give due respect to our heroes and I must say that if there ever was one hero who deserved our respect it was the legendary Manzoor Jr. A great star and a great human being. May he rest in peace.
– Shahnaz Sheikh is a former Hockey Olympian