A prodigious talent

January 10, 2021

Coming from a renowned hockey family, Hanan Shahid has all the attributes of a modern day striker

These days, all lament the talent drought in Pakistan sports. But still there are some who bring hope such as Mahnoor Shahzad, our female badminton star who is ranked 133rd in the world, and Hamza Khan, the winner of the under-15 title at the last British Junior Open.

In hockey, Pakistan, the record four time World Cup winners, are currently ranked 17th. They say hockey is in Pakistanis blood. Even today, very talented players appear on the scene but the pathetic outdated domestic structure means they don`t grow to become stars.

Hanan Shahid is among the most promising players on the horizon of Pakistan hockey. The prolific scorer, who will turn 16 this year, already has a very impressive CV: Captain of the Punjab A team, winner of the last national under 16 championships where he also scored nine goals including one in the final, Player of Tournament at the last national junior (under 19) championships.

Not only the age group events, he has also excelled at the National Championships. In the national tray championships last October, Punjab team was the surprise package. They were not only the lone regional side to qualify for the national championships main round but also won the tray championship. And young Hanan was the tournament`s top scorer with 12 goals. At the nationals main round also, Punjab did reasonably well. By finishing seventh among the 10 sides, Punjab team retained its place in the main round of the next nationals. Hanan was his team`s main goal getter.

The Lahore boy comes from a distinguished hockey family. It started with Afzal Manna, silver medallist of 1964 Olympics, who was Hanan`s grandfather`s real brother. Manna`s younger brothers, Sarwar Jamshed and Anwar Jamshed, played for Pakistan Youth and Pakistan Whites, respectively. Manna`s son Zahid Afzal appeared for Pakistan in test matches against the visiting Chinese national team in 2003. Manna’s three nephews, including Hanan`s father Mohammad Shahid, played for either Pakistan juniors or the whites’ squad.

The third generation is carrying the legacy. Hanan`s first cousin Azfar Yaqoob has been a member of the national team for quite some time. Azfar`s younger brother Murtaza Yaqoob appeared for Pakistan at the Youth Olympics` qualifiers in 2018.

* I was born in a hockey family, and had gripped the stick before I could even stand on my feet. My family runs the Pak Heroes, one of the leading clubs of Lahore, where I have been doing my regular training since I was four. For last many years, the club has practised at the Johar Town stadium which has one of the four synthetic turfs in Lahore. Right from the beginning, I have played at the centre forward position.

Till recently, it was mostly club and school

* I began representing my club in local and outstation tournaments from an early age, and have also toured Malaysia, Dubai and Thailand with Pak Heroes. In Malaysia, it was an under 14 hockey tournament in Ipoh at the famous Azlan Shah Stadium in 2017. At the Pakistan Day Hockey Cup in Bangkok in 2018, I was the top scorer.

Hanan has recently completed his matriculation from Crescent Model School, one of Lahore`s most prestigious educational institutions which boasts top notch sports facilities.

* I am lucky to have studied at Crescent Model School. Sports have always been a part of students` life there. The school has produced quite a few internationals in different disciplines. In recent times, tennis star Aisamul Haq and Test cricketer Sami Aslam have made Crescentarians proud.

The school gave me a full scholarship. Whenever I had to go out of the town to play some tournament, I did not have an issue with my attendance list. I feel proud to have contributed in quite a few achievements of the school team: winners of the Himont Inter- school Tournament 2017, runners up at the Punjab Olympics 2018, champions of Lahore School Sports 2019. I also had the honour to captain my school team at these successes.

Crescent Model School doesn`t compromise on the educational performance, and Hanan didn’t disappoint.

-I always took my studies seriously. During the weekdays, I used to skip the morning practice session and only went to the stadium in the evenings. Moreover, I always completed my school task regularly. All this paid off as I got 70% marks in my class X board exam and recently got admission at Government College, Lahore, in the Intermediate Commerce group.

Education continues to be the priority

* I am aiming for a postgraduate degree. It could be in accounts or maybe in sports sciences. Sports wings of some departments have approached me to join them. I have declined so far. Once, you are employed with the department, it becomes obligatory to play for them when called. My studies take precedence. Hence, I have been appearing only for the regional sides in the national events.

Scoring goals is in his blood

* Everyone in my family across three generations has played in the forward line. Hence, centre forward has been my favourite position. However, positional flexibility is an essential element of modern hockey. I have also played in the inside right and inside left channels and even in the centre of the midfield.

The scribe talked to some connoisseurs of the game and reputed coaches. They speak highly of Hanan. It is their shared opinion that the boy possesses all the attributes of a modern day striker: finishing, positioning, individual runs, elimination skills plus passing, receiving as well as the ability to switch positions.

The exceptional young talent has already caught the attention of mega sponsors.

After watching my performance at the national tray championship, Mr Khawar Anwar Khawaja, the CEO of the world renowned sports goods manufacturers Grays of Cambridge, announced a cash award of Rs30,000 right there and then. On top of it, since then the Grays have been sponsoring my full hockey kit.

* Hanan is a keen student of the game

We are lucky to be living in this age of global internet communication. I regularly watch international hockey events and also the major European domestic leagues, especially the Hoofdklasse (Dutch league). One learns a lot.

* About his favourite player

German international Florian Fuchs who plays his club hockey for the Dutch team Bloemendaal inspires me the most because of his great skills and excellence in finishing.

* Close to getting national colours

I have attended the last two national junior camps. The most recent one was for the twice postponed Junior Asia Cup in Bangladesh, also the qualifier for the next Junior World Cup.

Hanan`s widely acknowledged talent, enthusiasm and the will to learn and succeed are definite indicators of a future star.

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A prodigious talent