Stars on trees

May 5, 2024

A hockey legend pays tribute to heroes and lovers of the game in a unique manner

Stars on trees

Pakistan’s former hockey captain Rasheedul Hassan is one of the very few players in the world to have won every gold medal at the title tournaments: World Cup (1982), Olympics (1984), Asian Games (1982), Asia Cup (1982 & 1985), and even Junior World Cup (1979).

The legend hails from Gojra, a small tehsil in district Toba Tek Singh. Rasheedul Hassan’s precocious talents were spotted by the management of PIA’s sports department in 1975 when he was just 16. And he started appearing for PIA’s team, the country’s best hockey outfit. This meant shifting to Karachi. In 1980, he got a permanent job in Customs, from where he retired in 2019. He has now lived in Karachi for almost 50 years.

But he has remained attached to his roots throughout.

“I visit Gojra regularly. In 2001, I bought some agricultural land on the outskirts of Gorja where I constructed a farmhouse and named it Khokhar Haveli.”

He has also been patronising the Rasheedul Hassan Hockey Academy in Gojra since 2009. The budding players are given quality training and provided with playing gear and kits free of charge.

A few months back, he struck a novel idea. “The seedlings sowed at the orchard in the Khokhar Haveli have grown up into big trees. I wanted to pay tribute to people who contributed to our national sport. Hence, I decided to name my orchard’s trees after great hockey players and those who served Pakistan hockey in other capacities.”

A few days back, a proper ceremony was held at the Khokhar Haveli attended by legendary players, sports journalists, and hockey enthusiasts. Many came from other cities.

Each tree has a plaque with the individual’s name and main achievement inscribed along with his picture.

The list is the who is who of Pakistan hockey: includes Pakistan’s four World Cup-winning captains, the three Olympic gold medal-winning captains, Naseer Bunda (scorer of the only goal in the 1960 Olympics final when Pakistan won the first Olympic gold), the greatest center-forward Hassan Sardar, wingers Samiullah & Kalimullah, goalkeepers Saleem Sherwani & Moinuddin, full-backs Munir Dar & Manzoorul Hassan and so forth.

Also honoured are Pakistan’s most successful hockey manager Brigadier M H Atif, greatest sports administrator Air Marshal Nur Khan, popular hockey commentators Farooq Mazhar and S M Naqi, founder of Gojra hockey M Yaqoob, distinguished international umpire Faiz M Faizi, TV sports shows hosts Mirza Iqbal Baig and Yahya Hussaini, prominent sports journalist yours truly Ijaz Chaudhry, Khawar Anwar Khawaja CEO of Grays of Cambridge of Pakistan (manufacturers of sports equipment including hockey sticks and ball), and so on.

Stars on trees

“More than 50 prominent hockey people have been honoured here. But many more deserve recognition. I am waiting for more saplings to become trees,” says Rasheed.

Someone rightly said that history never forgives those who forget their heroes.

Rasheed has done a great national service in this regard - in a unique manner.

Stars on trees