Dhaka is staging the 10th Hockey Asia Cup from October 11-22. It is the second time the country is hosting this mega event — 32 years back, the second Asia Cup was held in Dhaka.
Let us recall that event in 1985 which witnessed the most absorbing final between Asia’s two hockey superpowers.
Today, Pakistan hockey is struggling for survival on the international stage though there have been some good news recently. Pakistan have qualified for the next year’s World Cup, having missed the big event in 2014. The Green-shirts also missed the bus for the 2016 Olympics.
But in 1985, when Pakistan arrived in Dhaka to defend the title, they virtually ruled the world of hockey. The nation had all the major titles, World Cup, Olympics, Asian Games and Asia Cup in its possession.
Led by Haneef Khan, after the retirement of Manzoor Hussain Jr, the Pakistan squad was more or less the same which had helped the country to its third Olympic gold at Los Angeles in 1984. There were only two changes. One was in the forward line where Manzoor Jr was missing. Interestingly, the newcomer was his younger brother Mahmood Hussain. Goalkeeper Mohammad Anwar came in place of Moinuddin, one of the heroes of the ‘84 Olympics. Moin had developed a lung disease which prevented him from playing the game for more than a year.
Abdul Waheed Khan was the manager of the team. He had been the manager in 1978, a year in which Pakistan won the World Cup, the Asian Games and the 1st Champions Trophy.
Pakistan won all their pool matches but apart from their 16-0 demolition of minnows Iran, the performance was not very satisfactory. Pakistan defeated China and Japan 2-0 apiece. Hosts Bangladesh gave them a real fright, conceding the match by a solitary goal.
Hasan Sardar found form with five goals as Pakistan stepped up the gear in the semi-finals, trouncing South Korea 7-0.
The other finalists India had won all their games more convincingly, by a margin of at least three goals. In the semi-final, India annihilated Japan 9-1.
So an epic battle was expected in the final and that is how it turned out to be. In an overflowing stadium with a boisterous crowd, the match was reminiscent of vintage Asian style hockey. At the end of the stipulated 70 minutes, it was tied 1-1. Skipper Haneef had scored for Pakistan. Nimble-footed Mohammad Naeem had netted for India.
During the extra time, a titanic battle was witnessed. Pakistan went ahead through right-in Mushtaq Ahmad. India immediately equalised through Hardeep Singh after a captivating combined move.
Once again it fell to right-out Kaleemullah to score the winning goal towards the fag end, as he had done against Germany in the final of the 1984 Olympics.
The Indian team vehemently protested against the goal, claiming Kaleem’s stick had come from over the shoulder. A few of them got so infuriated that they physically beat up the Japanese umpire. The umpire eventually had to be carried on a stretcher. The play remained suspended for a long time. The match was scheduled to end in daylight but floodlights had to be utilised.
Six Indian players were banned initially for an indefinite period, later changed to varying periods of time. The Indian team’s manager and coach were both suspended for one year.
Pakistan’s top scorer was again centre-forward Hasan Sardar (10 goals) but for once he was not the overall top scorer of the tournament. That honour went to Indian forward M Naeem with 12 goals.
Sardar, arguably the greatest centre forward in the history of the game, maintained his record of scoring in the final of title tournaments. He had done so in 1982 World Cup, 1982 Asia Cup, 1982 Asian Games, and 1984 Olympics.
1978-85 is easily the longest spell of success in Pakistan hockey’s history. The country won all the title tournaments:
1978: World Cup & Asian Games
1982: World Cup, 1st Asia Cup & Asian Games
1984 Olympics and now the 1985 Asia Cup
It is pertinent to mention here that Pakistan, along with several other nations, had boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics in protest against the erstwhile Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.
Rankings at the 2nd Asia Cup: 1st Pakistan, 2nd India, 3rd South Korea, 4th Japan, 5th Malaysia, 6th Bangladesh, 7th China, 8th Sri Lanka, 9th Singapore, 10th Iran.
Pakistan team: Goalkeepers: Shahid Ali Khan and M Anwar
Full-backs: Qasim Zia, Nasir Ali and Tauqueer Dar
Half-backs: Rasheedul Hasan, Ayaz Mahmood, Naeem Akhtar and Ishtiaq Ahmad
Forwards: Kaleemullah Khan, Mushtaq Ahmad, Hasan Sardar, Haneef Khan, Khalid Hameed, Saleem Sherwani and Mahmood Hussain
Captain: Haneef Khan
Manager: Abdul Waheed Khan
Coach: Jehangir Butt
Pakistan’s goal scorers: Hasan Sardar 10, Haneef Khan 8, Kaleemullah 5, Mushtaq Ahmad 5, Khalid Hameed, Rasheedul Hasan and Naeem Akhtar one each