Mixed Fortunes

August 9, 2020

From 1971 to 1974, Pakistan’s hockey team experienced a series of ups and downs, winning the inaugural World Cup in 1971 but suffering a major setback in the 1972 Olympics

Khalid Mehmood receiving the world cup 1971

By 1970 Pakistan were both Olympic and Asian champions and firmly ensconced as the world’s leading hockey nation. The decade of the 70s that followed was a tumultuous one with both highs and lows for our national game.

A new competition was introduced in 1971. The World Cup was the brainchild of Air Marshal Nur Khan and the International Hockey Federation had decided that the inaugural tournament would be held in Pakistan in October 1971. However, because of the ongoing political crisis in Pakistan the venue was changed to Barcelona in Spain. In addition to conceiving the idea for the World Cup Pakistan also donated a magnificent trophy for the event. This weighed 11.5 kilograms, including almost a kilogram of gold, over 6.5 kilograms of silver, 350 grams of ivory and 3.5 kilograms of teak wood.

Led by Khalid Mehmood Pakistan were placed in Group B. They started the tournament with a bang. In their opening match against Australia, Tanvir Dar converted a penalty corner in the very first minute and Asad Malik added a goal seven minutes later. Parry scored off a penalty stroke for Australia to make it 2-1, but Rasheed Junior soon scored and the score was 3-1 for Pakistan at halftime . Australia recovered to 3-2, but two late penalty corner conversions by Tanvir Dar sealed a 5-2 win for Pakistan.

Next was a 1-0 win over Japan followed by a match with Netherlands that turned out to be a battle between two penalty corner experts. Tanvir Dar scored off three penalty corners for Pakistan while Nico Spits converted two for Netherlands. Spits also set up a goal for Paul Litjens, so the final score was tied at 3-3. Pakistan’s final pool match was against the hosts Spain. Spain led 2-0 but Pakistan fought back to 2-2 through goals by Tanvir Dar and Rasheed Junior. However, Amat scored off a controversial penalty corner conversion for a 3-2 Spanish victory. Pakistan’s fate now depended on the outcome of the match between Netherlands and Japan. A Dutch victory would have ousted Pakistan from the tournament but much to everyone’s surprise Japan beat Netherlands 1-0, allowing Pakistan to qualify for the semifinals.

In the semifinals Pakistan played their old traditional rivals India who took the lead in the 30th minute through Rajvinder Singh. Shortly after half time Tanvir Dar scooped the ball from near the Pakistan 25 yard line deep into the Indian half. A fumbled stop by an Indian defender allowed Rasheed Junior to collect the ball, take it into the D and score. An ebullient Tanvir Dar leapt into the air to celebrate. Sadly he twisted his ankle on landing and had to be stretchered off the field. Munnawar uz Zaman added a penalty corner goal in the 57th minute giving Pakistan a 2-1 win.

The final again pitted Pakistan against Spain. Tanvir Dar and Asad Malik were unfit and were replaced by Akhtarul Islam and Islahuddin, with Islah playing as inside left for the first and only time in his international career. Akhtarul Islam scored the solitary goal of the match in the 28th minute and Pakistan ascended the podium as world champions. They were now holders of the triple crown of hockey; World Champions, Olympic Champions and Asian Champions.

Next stop was the 1972 Munich Olympics, which are probably best remembered for the killing of hostages in the Olympic village. Pakistan, who were captained by Asad Malik, were placed in Group A and began by beating France 3-0. They were next held to a 1-1 draw by Spain before beating Uganda 3-1. West Germany upset them 2-1 in their next group match, but they recovered with three consecutive wins, defeating Argentina 3-1, Malaysia 3-0 and Belgium 3-1 and thus qualified for the semifinal.

Their semifinal opponents were India. Pakistan’s right wing had not been functioning effectively so the team management decided to switch Islahuddin who had been playing as an inside right, to the right out position and bring Muddasar Asghar into the side as right in. Islah initially had reservations about this, but fitted into the role admirably and Pakistan triumphed over India 2-0, with Fazlur Rehman scoring off a penalty stroke and Shahnaz Shaikh scoring a dazzling field goal.

The win over India had boosted the team’s confidence and they entered the final against West Germany in a buoyant mood. It was a strong team comprising of Goalkeeper Saleem Sherwani, Full Backs Akhtarul Islam and Munnawaruz Zaman, Half backs Saeed Anwar, Riaz Ahmed and Fazlur Rehman, and a forward line up of Islahuddin, Muddassar Asghar, Rasheed Junior, Asad Malik and Shahnaz Shaikh. The final was a rough game that was marred by controversy. In the first half Muddassar scored off a rebound from a penalty corner but the goal was disallowed despite vigorous Pakistani protests. The half time score was 0-0 and the game was drifting towards a draw when in the 60th minute, a penalty corner hit from Krause flew into the net for a goal. Pakistan complained that the ball hit the net chest high, well over the knee height that was legally allowed. However, their objections were overruled and the goal stood.

At the victory ceremony the Pakistan team expressed their displeasure in a most unprofessional way. They turned their backs when the German national anthem was played, refused to wear their medals round their necks, and Shahnaz even dangled his medal from his footwear. The team players on the victory stand were given a life ban, but after an apology was tendered this was reduced to two years.

Because of the ban Pakistan fielded a virtual second eleven for next World Cup held in Amstelveen, Netherlands, in 1973. Only Tanvir Dar and Akhtar Rasool from the Munich team had escaped the ban and were in the side which was led by Khalid Mehmood who was specially recalled for the tournament.

Pakistan started with a 4-2 win over Malaysia, the goals coming from Samiullah, Laeeq, Azam and Tanvir Dar. The next game against the hosts Netherlands saw the home side take the lead but a goal in each half by Azam gave Pakistan a 2-1 victory. England were their next opponents and led twice, but on each occasion Pakistan struck back for a final score of 2-2. Pakistan’s scorers were Tanvir Dar and Laeeq. Tanvir Dar scored twice in the next group match against Belgium for a 2-0 win, while in their final group game Pakistan overwhelmed Argentina 6-0, with three goals from Tanvir Dar and one each from Safdar Abbas, Laeeq and Samiullah.

A depleted Pakistan side had done exceedingly well to reach the last four where they met India. In a high quality match India missed a penalty stroke and Pakistan were frustrated when a Tanvir Dar penalty corner hit was stopped on the goal line itself. A brilliant field goal by the Indian centre forward Govinda settled the fate of the match in India’s favour. This 1-0 defeat was repeated in the 3rd place play off against West Germany, when a Krause penalty corner goal gave the German team a 1-0 victory, leaving Pakistan in 4th place.

Pakistan scores against Spain in world cup 1971

Pakistan’s next assignment was the 1974 Asian Games at Tehran. A training camp was set up at Hasan Abdal where the entire Pakistan contingent for the games, including the hockey team, was based. The contingent flew to Tehran from the Chaklala airbase in a couple of C-130 planes of the Pakistan Air Force and its Chief de Mission was the Punjab Governor of the time Mr. Mairaj Khalid.

Pakistan had a strong hockey team led by Rasheed Junior. Their opening match against the hosts Iran was abandoned due to torrential rains when Pakistan was leading 4-0. It was replayed a few days later and Pakistan won 13-0. They also beat Malaysia 4-0, Sri Lanka 14-0 and Japan 3-0. In their last pool match against India Akhtar Rasool scored to give Pakistan the lead but this was neutralized by Ajitpal Singh for India and the match ended 1-1. Since Pakistan and India were tied on equal points there was a play off for the gold medal. Pakistan comfortably won this match 2-0, with goals from Manzoor and Munnawaruz Zaman, and retained their Asian Games title.

Despite some mixed fortunes Pakistan was still a hockey powerhouse. Its progress in the remaining part of the 70s will be reviewed next week.

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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Mixed Fortunes