Still the best

August 2, 2020

Between 1960 to 1970, Pakistan’s hockey team was at the pinnacle of the international hockey arena

With victory against India in Rome Pakistan had become the undisputed hockey champions of the world, holding both the Olympic and Asian titles.

The next big competition was the 1962 Jakarta Asian Games where Pakistan largely retained its Rome Olympics team. Since Hameedi had retired he was replaced by Khawaja Zakauddin and the captaincy was taken over by Chaudhry Ghulam Rasool. Pakistan got off to a flying start beating Japan 5-0, with two penalty corner goals from Munir Dar and a goal each by Naseer Bunda, Zakauddin and Waheed. In the next match Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) were swamped 9-1, and following this Singapore were beaten 4-0 with two goals from Naseer Bunda and one each by Waheed and Munir Dar. In its final pool match Pakistan beat the hosts Indonesia 8-0.

In the semifinals Pakistan met Malaya (now Malaysia) and it’s forward line put on a dazzling display of dribbling and ball control to win 5-0. Three of the goals came from the superlative centre forward Waheed and two were netted by the brilliant inside left Naseer Bunda.

The final saw Pakistan play arch rivals India. In a rough match India’s centre half Charanjit Singh left the field after sustaining a facial injury, while Pakistan’s full back Atif was also sent off the field for a few minutes. A goal in each half by Atif and Waheed gave Pakistan a 2-0 victory enabling them to retain the title of Asian champions.

The 1964 Tokyo Olympics team had a new look. Chaudhry Ghulam Rasool, Noor Alam and Habib Ali Kiddie had retired and were replaced by Muhammad Rashid, Khalid Mehmood and Saeed Anwar respectively. Naseer Bunda was surprisingly dropped from the side, while the frontline spearhead Waheed fractured his right index finger in the training camp. Their replacements were Asad Malik and Afzal Manna respectively. Manzoor Hussain Atif was the team captain.

The team had a tough start. In the very first pool match Japan kept the Pakistan forward line at bay during a goalless first half. The manager Col. Dara took the unusual step of asking the centre half Anwar Ahmed Khan to play as an additional sixth forward in the second half. This surprise move unsettled the Japanese defense and Pakistan were able to score the only goal of the match. In their next outing Pakistan comfortably beat Kenya 5-2, followed by a tight match against Britain which Pakistan won 1-0. Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was trounced 6-0, but the captain Atif suffered a broken finger in the game. In it’s final pool matches Pakistan beat New Zealand 2-0 and Australia 2-1.

In the semifinals Pakistan had a convincing 3-0 victory over Spain setting the stage for another final with India. Despite his injured finger Atif returned to the side for the final. The Pakistan line up was Goal keeper Abdul Hamid, Right Full back Munir Dar, Left Full Back Atif, Right Half Saeed Anwar, Centre Half Anwar Ahmad Khan, Left Half Muhammad Rashid, Outside Right Khalid Mahmood, Inside Right Zakauddin, Centre Forward Afzal Manna, Inside Left Asad Malik and Outside Left Motiullah. It was a close, tight match with a barren first half. Five minutes into the second half Prithipal Singh’s stinging penalty corner shot struck Munir Dar’s foot on the goal line. India were awarded a penalty stroke which was taken by Mohinder Lal. Realizing that the Pakistani goal keeper Hamid was short, Mohinder scooped the ball into the roof of the net. Pakistan fought back, but Asad Malik and Khalid Mahmood both missed open goal chances. India finally prevailed 1-0, relegating Pakistan to the silver medal position.

Next stop was the 1966 Bangkok Asian Games. Led by Munir Dar Pakistan was placed in Group A. It began its campaign with a lackluster goalless draw against Japan but picked up momentum by beating Hong Kong 5-0 and routing Thailand 13-0. In the semi finals they showed flashes of brilliance in overcoming Malaysia 5-1. India in Group B had begun with unimpressive victories against Malaysia, Korea and Ceylon, but had struck form in beating Japan 3-0 in the semifinals.

Pakistan were favorites to win the final. This became even more likely when India’s outside right Balbir Singh left the ground with a knee injury, reducing India to ten men, as no substitutes were allowed in those days. India played defensively and the match ended without a goal. Extra time was enforced and in the second session of extra time Balbir Singh returned. Three minutes before the end of extra time a long clearance by India was trapped in the dee by Balbir, who tried to reverse flick the ball to centre forward Harbinder at the top of the circle. While doing this he slipped and almost fell. The ball hit a corner of his stick and rolled into the goal at the near post. This goal, off a complete mis-hit, cost Pakistan its Asian title.

Air Marshal Nur Khan became the President of the Pakistani Hockey Federation in 1967 and vowed to regain the Olympic title at Mexico City in 1968. Brigadier Manzoor Hussain Atif was appointed as the team manager and a training camp was set up at Lower Topa, near the hill station of Murree, to simulate Mexico City’s altitude of 7300 feet.

Atif made some radical team changes. Zakir the goalkeeper from 1954-63, was recalled to plug a weakness. Ashfaque a brilliant inside right, and an earlier Atif discovery, was also brought back. The legendary Hameedi’s brother Rasheed Junior was switched from an inside right position to centre forward, while the great attacking left half Fazlur Rehman was replaced by the more sedate and defensive Gulraiz Akhtar. Tariq Aziz was the team’s captain.

Playing in Pool B, Pakistan started in style overrunning Netherlands 6-0, including a hat-trick by Rasheed Junior. France was beaten 1-0 through another Rasheed goal, but the next pool match against Australia saw Pakistan trailing 1-2 at half time. Superb second half play by Ashfaque and two successful penalty corner strikes by the captain Tariq Aziz saw them through 3-2. A comfortable 5-0 victory against Argentina was followed by a tight 2-1 win over Britain with goals from Ashfaque and Tanveer Dar. They beat Malaysia 4-0, which included a couple of goals from Asad Malik, and edged out Kenya 2-1 in their final pool match.

In the semifinal against Germany Pakistan wasted 11 penalty corners and a penalty stroke in a goalless match. Even extra time proved fruitless, but finally in the sudden death period Khalid Mahmood cut inside from the flank and dribbled past three defenders to score an exceptional winning goal.

In the other semifinal Australia beat India 2-1 to earn a rematch with Pakistan in the final. Pakistan began the final well and in the 15th minute Ashfaque picked up the ball near the 25 yard line, side stepped the Australian full back Glencross and sent a pass to Rasheed Junior who scored. In the 46th minute Australia equalised off a penalty corner, but five minutes later outside right Khalid Mahmood weaved past a defender to send in a cross to an unmarked Asad Malik who netted with a reverse flick. Pakistan had regained their Olympic crown with a 2-1 win.

For the 1970 Asian Games Pakistan retained most of its Mexico Olympics squad. Some new faces like Saleem Sherwani, Akhtarul Islam, Shahnaz Shaikh and Islahuddin Siddiqi brought further strength and class to the team. Khalid Mahmood captained the side. Placed in Group B, Pakistan began its campaign with a 3-0 win against Japan that included two goals from Rasheed Junior and one by Shahnaz Shaikh. This was followed by a 10-0 defeat of Hong Kong with three more goals from Rasheed. The night before their next match against Thailand, there was a torrential downpour turning the field into a soggy mess on which it was almost impossible to move the ball. The ball kept going out of shape and had to be changed more than twenty times. A goalless draw ensued.

In the semifinals Pakistan trounced Malaysia 5-0, with two goals each from Asad Malik and Ashfaque and one from Rasheed. The final against India was a tense encounter that ended goalless. Extra time was played in which the irrepressible Rasheed scored Pakistan’s winner for a 1-0 win.

Pakistan thus ended the decade as it had begun it, back atop the pinnacle of World hockey.

Dr Salman Faridi is a senior surgeon, poet, sports aficionado and an avid reader with a private collection of over 7000 books.

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Still the best