"I am a sportsman, a fighter and I shall fight to the very end. Don’t worry. I will not give up easily."
Mansoor Ahmed, the darling of many hockey-loving hearts, left them sad when he breathed his last in National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) bed No 10 in Karachi on May 12th after fighting a prolonged illness.
Born on January 7, 1968, in a family with two brothers and a sister, Mansoor was a born leader and a fighter. Wikipedia is full of his glorious achievements under the bar, when he represented his country from 1986 to 2000.
Mansoor was awarded the Pride of Performance, the highest civil national award in 1994. Mansoor always wanted to remain away from the dirty sports politics and ultimately retired from international hockey in year 2000 after Shahbaz Ahmed Senior’s revolt against Mansoor in 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Mansoor had his share of personal tragedies. A prolonged professional issue with Customs where he served as a superintendent and a broken family life affected his health badly. These shocks were quite telling for him and the accumulated stress resulted in the heart disease which eventually took his life.
I first saw Mansoor playing at Champions Trophy in 1994. My association grew deeper with him in 2012, when I first met him for a detailed interview. We subsequently worked together on a sports-for-development project in Islamabad.
I had discussed the concept with many sports stars, including leading cricketers, but no one was able to really understand and apply the concept practically.
Mansoor thoroughly enjoyed the projects that we organised in a girls’ public school in Islamabad and a school system for orphans run in Islamabad under the patronage of Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal in Islamabad.
Mansoor always cherished these experiences as they connected him with the new generation. He encouraged me to organise further programmes in schools and communities to promote sports at the grassroots level. His services in this regard were always voluntary.
Dr Minhaj-us-Siraj, Deputy Director General Health of CADD in Islamabad, told me that Mansoor was their brand ambassador and worked relentlessly for the anti-smoking drive in the country voluntarily.
Mansoor remained under treatment of Dr Naeem Malik, a renowned cardiologist at PIMS. Mansoor was repeatedly hospitalised, at PIMS and at Dr Ziauddin Hospital in Karachi. As he couldn’t afford his further treatment privately, his friends and relatives sought support. The government finally realised the gravity of his condition and he was hospitalised at National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD).
When I last visited him, on March 26th, his condition was rather stable. He told me that he had been offered a Mechanical Heart Transplantation, the first of its kind in Pakistan. But with five stents and a pacemaker already installed in the heart of champion, the option was not feasible. He wanted the conventional heart transplant in the US or India.
Dr Komarakshi Balakrishnan, a world renowned cardiologist at Malar Hospital in Chennai, offered his services to Mansoor and his family for an immediate heart transplant but Dr Naveed Qamar of NICVD Karachi advised him not to travel anywhere in so perilous health condition.
The health of Mansoor had already gone from bad to worse. Supported by life-saving machines, he had lost significant body weight. During my last visit to him, he had the usual smile on his face he could hardly move with all the machines attached to his body. On seeing me he made a victory sign with his fingers. In a weak voice, he said to me, "I am a sportsman, a fighter and I shall fight to the very end. Don’t worry. I will not give up easily."
I knew what Mansoor meant. He was lying motionless in a hospital bed in the country’s largest city, where businessmen dole out millions in charity, but no one came forward to support him except the lion-hearted Shahid Khan Afridi.
The hockey federation remained elusive till the very end and came to Mansoor’s support when the game was already over. His treatment in India couldn’t materialise because of the prevailing political environment and strained relations between the two countries and thus we collectively failed to salvage a champion’s life.
Our leaders go abroad for toothache treatment and pressurise the government officials to clear their swollen medical bills, but they took no pain to assist a national hero.
Mansoor has left million of hockey fans sad. We may find a better goalkeeper than Mansoor, but may not find such a friend again. May you rest in peace, Mansoor!