All the news for Monday 26 December 2016
SNGPL, SSGC and NBP score victories
LAHORE: On the third day of the 63rd National Hockey Championships at National Hockey Stadium here Sunday, Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) defeated Higher Education Commission (HEC) 3-0, Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) defeated Pakistan Air Force (PAF) 3-0 and National Bank of Pakistan defeated Pakistan Television 5-0
SNGPL sail past HEC: The newly raised SNGPL met Higher Education Commission side which was recently assembled from players of various universities. HEC fought well in the first quarter and were unlucky to be deprived of a penalty stroke in the first minute as their forward was felled by the SSGC goal keeper in the circle. In the second quarter, HEC wasted two penalty corners. Nevertheless, the SNGPL, coached by former Pakistan captain Usman Sheikh, looked more threatening and scored two goals. In the 22nd minute, Mohammad Daud slotted in after a good raid from the left side. Another left side move saw Asfand Khan flicking the ball into the net off a rebound after the HEC goalkeeper had superbly saved Sohail Anjum's attempt. Though, SNGPL increased the tally by only one goal in the second half, they controlled the proceedings almost throughout and repeatedly entered the opposition's circle. The third goal was the best of the day. Speedy Ali Raza after a defence splitting run slipped the ball to Aleem who sounded the board from the top of the circle.
SSGC brush aside PAF 3-0: PAF proved no match to the SSGC who held the upper hand over large periods of time. It was only in small patches that PAF managed to compete on equal terms against their more skillful opponents. SSGC wasted all the seven penalty corners that came their way. PAF had two such chances. Interestingly, all the three goals were scored in a three minute spell. In the 18th minute, Pakistan's current international Rizwan Junior's flick from the right side of circle went in via a defender's stick. Next two minutes saw a brace by young Naveed Alam, who appeared for Pakistan under-18 in the Boys Asia Cup a couple of months back. His first goal was created by country's star forward Ali Shan who went past a couple of defenders before passing the ball to Naveed who made no mistake. Naveed was again at the right spot to avail the opportunity resulting from a good interplay between Adeel and Taufeeq.
National Bank trounced PTV 5-0: Loaded with eight members of Pakistan under-21 team, it was a clinical performance by the National Bank of Pakistan. They moved ahead like a well oiled machine with great coordination and entered the PTV circle almost at will. Coached by Tahir Zaman, the head coach of Pakistan under-21 squad, the NBP, after the first two matches, appeared to be strong contenders for the title. Credit goes to the PTV custodian Sajid Abbas who foiled several field goal attempts. Four of the NBP goals came via penalty corners.
The bankers applied pressure from the word go. The goal which was always coming arrived through the first PC in the 12th minute. Skipper Atiq Arshad's fast push found the left side of the board. The second was scored off the second PC when Mubashar Ali flicked high to net minder's left. NBP's delightful moves continued and they scored regularly. The fifth PC saw a goal through a variation. Tauseeq Arshad joined his brother Atiq on the score sheet. Two were added in the last quarter. In the 47th minute, Arslan Qadir took advantage of a dreadful defensive blunder and netted with a ferocious hit; only field goal of the game. Mubashar Ali completed the scoreline on the sixth PC with his second of the day. His forceful and angular push beat the custodian all ends up.
PTV had very few penetrations into the NBP circle, hardly made a serious attempt on the goal and obtained no penalty corner.
Matches for today:
National Bank vs Police
Railways vs Navy
Port Qasim Authority vs PIA
The Daily Times
January naming for men's hockey team to India
THE Fiji men's hockey team will be named next month for the Hockey World League Round two in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The tournament will be played from March 4-12 next year.
The Hector Smith-coached side will play Canada, Egypt, Oman, Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka and Ghana.
Meanwhile, Fiji women's team has withdrawn from competing in the Hockey World League Round two in Malaysia next month.
The side will compete in the Oceania competition in October next year.
The Fiji Times
Year in Review: It’s been a good year for Indian hockey, and 2017 provides chance to improve further
By Sundeep Misra
The Indian hockey team won a medal that India never imagined it would – a Champions Trophy silver. Image Credit: Twitter @HockeyIndia
Sure, we all did dream this year; a lot of us big. And we did imagine there would be an Olympic medal flying home all the way from Rio, a jinx if there was one worth breaking – 36 years since an Indian hockey player had closed his fist over an Olympic medal. But the Indian hockey team did win one medal that India never imagined it would – a Champions Trophy silver. India had never crossed the bronze barrier, and here the team almost snatched the gold away from the awesome Aussies.
Olympic years are difficult. Almost everyone is focused on that – preparations, camps, rebuilding teams, player selection, every cog in the wheel becomes vital. The Olympic fortnight is a special one, for which a nation builds, breaks and builds itself over four years. “It’s the one that matters,” said V Bhaskaran, the last man to captain India to an Olympic medal. In fact, for a nation that almost thought that an Olympic medal was its birthright, it’s been a painful existence since we last won in Moscow in 1980. For those who look deep into Olympic hockey history, the 1964 Olympic gold in Tokyo had intrinsic value.
So when Roelant Oltmans announced, albeit cautiously, that India were best prepared for an Olympic medal and that the players needed to focus on the moment rather than think of the end of the match, one wondered if 2016 was the year when fans would line up the streets from the Indira Gandhi International Airport into the city; many teams including the 1964 Olympic and 1975 World Cup winning teams had been given a ticker-tape parade. Ajit Pal Singh who speaks the way he played – calm, relaxed and confident – spoke about an Olympic year. He is the only Indian to have captained a World Cup (1975) winning team and never won an Olympic gold. “It’s the pressure year as we all used to say,” he said. “It’s in your head constantly, this thought of winning an Olympic medal and it takes courage to not break down.”
The year, in fact, started badly. For those believing in perfect starts and superstitions, losing a hockey final to Pakistan at the SAF Games in Guwahati for the third time in a row spelt bad luck for the rest of the year. SAF may not be the medal that you would keep in your bank locker, but when playing Pakistan in the final, it’s not something that shines on the CV if you end up on the losing side. Pakistan took a 1-0 lead and even though India had two penalty corners in the last five minutes, the equaliser just wasn’t coming. Pakistan had won the hockey gold in the 2006 and 2010 editions as well, so a third loss really rankled. “We actually thought this would be a good start for the year,” said coach Romeo James. “But Pakistan did play well and had six Olympians to the only one for us.” In a way, that team contributed two players to the Junior World Cup side – goalkeeper Vikas Dahiya and Ajit Kumar Pandey.
Meanwhile, the men’s side had re-assembled and was gunning for the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament. It was also Roelant Oltmans' at the helm. After a rash of changes – Terry Walsh and Paul van Ass – the Dutchman had once again agreed that he would now take over for the Olympics. It was clear that continuity was needed to stablise performances. Terry had delivered the Asian Games gold and Paul van Ass had ensured qualification for the finals of the World Hockey League. Yet both found themselves out in the cold. Oltmans had learnt fast that to work with Hockey India, constant friction wasn’t such a good idea. While Terry coached India at the 2014 World Cup at The Hague, ironically, it was Oltmans who took on Hockey India when the HI President had said ‘India would have had leaked more goals if not for the presence of P Sreejesh’. Oltmans in an interview at The Hague, said, “The team is just not about the goalkeeper. There are ten other players who also contribute.”
It was at the 2014 World Cup that the foundation was laid for the team’s achievements in 2016. And the biggest one was the structure. India did lose to Belgium and England – both matches were going India’s way but last minute goals gave away the wonderful work done earlier in the matches. Sport is also about imagining what might have been – if India had not given away late goals, it could have been a step away from the semi-finals, and maybe things could have altogether changed, much earlier.
Yet players learnt. And the lessons were incorporated again during Oltmans reign. Everything was okay till the team reached the Azlan Shah final. But the powerful Aussies beat India 4-0. It seemed results against big teams were still way off. Oltmans was looking for a change in the composition of the team and in a bizarre twist of fate, it probably helped that the Indian captain was accused of sexual exploitation and alleged rape by a British citizen, Ashpal Kaur Bhogal. To keep him safe from a police or a court case, Sardar Singh was not taken to the Champions Trophy in London. Hockey India called it ‘resting’ the player for the Olympic campaign ahead. Surprisingly, he was the only senior player apart from Rupinder Pal Singh rested. India played out of their skins and reached the Champions Trophy final, where they probably played their best match of not only the year but probably the decade, against a very strong Australia.
“It was pre-decided that Sardar will be rested for the Champions Trophy as he has been playing non-stop for quite some time. He played in the Azlan Shah where Sreejesh was rested. Here Sreejesh is leading the side and Sardar gets much-needed rest,” said Hockey India president Narinder Batra. Chief Coach Oltmans said, “It is important that we approach the tournament, not just with a view to winning it, but also to execute our tactics well, and learn from past mistakes and keep evolving. This will ensure that when we reach Rio, we are physically, mentally and tactically strong.”
Watching an Indian side with a huge amount of pace in the midfield, the team selection echoed those views of the coach Oltmans and the HI President Batra. Sardar was removed as captain and Sreejesh wore the arm band. After playing for than a decade in the central midfield position, Sardar was asked to move up and play as inside forward. It was intriguing – both tactically and as a team decision.
India gave a resounding send-off to 2016 with the Junior World Cup. PTI
Matches were close to call in Rio but when faced with a resurgent Belgium, India failed to tick off the tactical boxes. Leading, they gave it up and finally lost a match they seemed to have given up on a little easily. The fight back happened after Belgium led 3-1 and also they allowed their opponents the luxury of space. Constant pressure from the Europeans broke the Indians down. What many believed would have been a march to the semi-finals now was back to the drawing board for the next four years. India had won the Olympic gold in Tokyo 1964; maybe that city would be luck for Indian hockey a second time all over.
The pain of Rio spilled out in Kuantan, Malaysia where India won the Asian Champions Trophy for a second time after beating Pakistan 3-2. Sardar stamped his class by winning the man-of-the-match while Sreejesh was brilliant in the semi-finals. Rupinder Pal Singh came off age, finally, as a defender and penalty corner convertor with 11 goals. The Asian Champions Trophy provided a balm to the aching heart of Indian hockey, hurt by the quarter-final defeat at Rio.
“We can re-run the tapes any amount of time,” said Oltmans, when asked off the Belgium defeat at Rio. “But it’s over. And we lost a chance. Kuantan gave us happiness and a return to winning ways.” Oltmans had told the squad before leaving for Malaysia that only winning the trophy would do.
It’s been a year where much was promised. It’s also been a year where the advancement of the team has been perceptible, visible. And like when you step out into chilling cold air, filling in your lungs, tomorrow does appear bright and fresh. It was left to the junior side to step onto the podium, giving a resounding send-off to 2016 with the Junior World Cup. Smiling and shaking hands with the team was Narinder Batra, who became the President of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) in 2016; the first Indian to do so.
Yet in an Olympic year, the aches and pains of Rio would remain. Yannis Pitsiladis, sports physiologist and geneticist at the University of Brighton so very rightfully said, “You’re here once. You want to do something that matters.”
To end on an optimistic note, while, the world wraps it’s 2016 business up, Indian hockey can look at itself in the mirror and smile – It’s been a good year and the feet are ready to hit 2017 running.
Hockey Junior World Cup winners eye senior World Cup, 2020 Olympics
KOLKATA: Just-crowned Hockey Junior World Cup champions' captain Harjeet Singh on Sunday said that he and his teammates now aim to break into the senior national team and win the gold in the 2018 World Cup slated to take place in Bhubaneswar.
"The aim is to get into the (senior) team by impressing with our performances in the upcoming HIL (Hockey India League, starting January 21, 2017) and then aim for top honours in the World Cup and Tokyo Olympics 2020," the soft-spoken Harjeet told reporters on the sidelines of a felicitation programme arranged by the West Bengal government here.
Several World Cup winning members have come to the city to participate in the ongoing 121st edition of the All India Beighton Cup.
Harjeet, who led the side to its pinnacle after a span of 15 years, said it was the best feeling in the world when the roof came down in Lucknow after they beat Belgium 2-1 in the final.
"It was a surreal feeling. The entire stadium was packed and the moment we won, the joy crossed all limits. We felt so proud to be able to give so much joy to an entire nation at our age," Harjeet said.
India, in the process, also became the second team after Germany to win the title more than once.
The state government awarded each player a prize of Rs 10,000 for the historic feat.
The Times of India
When the nawabs played hockey: Rise and fall of one of game’s hotbeds
There was a time when the Indian team was made up of players from UP. But despite state’s love affair remaining intact, things are a lot different now.
by Mihir Vasavda
(L-R) Marcellus Gomes, Mervyn Fernandes, MK Kaushik, Mohd Shahid, Syed Ali, Charanjit Singh, Zafar Iqbal and Surender Sodhi during a camp in Patiala for the 1981-82 World Cup. Dhyan Chand, Shahid, Ali and Iqbal are all products of hockey nurseries in UP.
The stadium had lost its voice. But Syed Ali couldn’t care less. He is on his feet, shaking his head in disbelief and applauding a fine goal. He is perhaps the only person in the stands who is celebrating a goal that has put India behind.
It is the 11th minute of India’s group stage junior World Cup match against England. Liam Sanford picked the ball inside India’s half. He looked left and right, searching for support. But there was no white shirt in his vision. So Sanford did what few English players can do.
He body-dodged five Indian players, slicing open the defence with such flair that it made Ali nostalgic. “Aahahahaaa…” Ali gushed. As if appreciating a piece of shaayri.
He didn’t care which team scored. In his playing days, and even in the era before that, they never did. To Ali and many in this region, what always mattered most was artistry.
Lucknow takes pride in its tehzeeb. Even in everyday conversations, the people are poetic. At a crowded traffic signal, the smiling cop waves the cars on with adab. The city known for its ‘pehle aap’ chivalry even allows you to jump the queue at an ATM. Lucknow shows heart for a visitor desperate for cash.
These qualities define their hockey as well. It’s very lyrical, the way this region plays its hockey. Think of Dhyan Chand or his son Ashok Kumar. KD Singh Babu or Mohammad Shahid. Zafar Iqbal or Ali himself. All so stylish. They were the wizards who gave Indian hockey its identity.
If Punjab is about brawn and Coorg/Tamil Nadu is about brain, beauty defines a player from Lucknow, or Uttar Pradesh in general, the best. It’s ingrained in their DNA. “Agar koi UP ke player ke paas skill nahi hai, toh woh gadha hai (If a UP player doesn’t have skills, he’s a fool),” Sujit Kumar, a stylish right out in the 1980s, says. “India khelna, aur style mein khelna alag cheez hai. (Playing for India and playing in style are two different things)”
The city’s love affair with hockey is as passionate as its love for kebabs. That Lucknow has a cricket stadium named after a hockey legend (KD Singh Babu) goes to show the quality of players it has produced. In fact, the city’s three main outdoor stadiums (two hockey and one cricket) are all named after their hockey greats: Dhyan Chand, KD Singh Babu and Mohammad Shahid.
During the junior World Cup, thousands walked through the turnstiles in biting cold and almost zero visibility due to fog at the Dhyan Chand stadium in the city’s outskirts. Such is the craze that several hundreds turned up even for India’s practice sessions at the newly-constructed Mohammad Shahid stadium. The junior World Cup, involving 16 countries, was the biggest sporting event ever to be held in Uttar Pradesh. With state elections just around the corner, there’s a political tinge to it. Huge hoardings of Akhilesh Yadav wishing the team luck in ‘Umeedo ka Pradesh’ are sprinkled across the city.
For the former greats from the city, though, these were nostalgic two weeks. Reliving their sepia-tinted memories. They are fascinating storytellers, although you’ll never know where fact ends and fiction begins. But somewhere in between lay the unending romance.
“Shahid ball leke chalta toh teen-teen gore bhaagte uske peeche. Ek baar aise usne break maari ki do gore flag pe jaa gir pade.”
Syed Ali is describing Mohammad Shahid’s artistry, which is perhaps as tough as trying to stop him from dribbling. “European players used to tear his t-shirt in desperation to stop him from beating them,” Sujit Kumar adds. “Back then, rules were not as strict as they are now. Today, a player would get a red card for that, but not in those days. Shirt, pants…whatever they could grab to stop him.”
Dhyan Chand (L), en route to the 1936 Berlin Games.
But there was also grudging admiration for Shahid’s skills. His ability to win penalty corners was so legendary that even the mighty Dutch looked at him with awe. In 1989, India travelled to Amsterdam for the BMW Trophy. Even before the team checked into their hotel, the organisers asked if Shahid was a part of the travelling party. “When they were informed that he had retired a few months earlier, they were extremely disappointed,” Sujit says.
Holland, back then, had Floris Bovelander, one of the finest exponents of drag-flicks. But they did not have anyone to win them penalty corners. “Shahid used to get us 8-9 corners in one match. They said they needed a player like Shahid, who could compliment Bovelander,” Sujit adds.
But not everyone was as smitten. Ali points at his thumb, knees, toes and teeth to show how every part of his body was broken at some point in his career because of the rough tackles made by the opponents to stop them. “Every time I ran with the ball, the defenders used to shout ‘maaro’. They used to be very afraid of me,” Ali says. “Saale, maarne mein lage rehte the. Chot toh bahut lagti par humne bade sardar gira diye hai.”
The wizardry was learnt at the once-famous Lucknow sports hostel. Ali recalls his chance meeting with Dhyan Chand, who was in his 70s when he dropped by at a training session at the KD Singh Babu stadium.
Ali says: “He picked up a stick and told me to hit the ball hard in his direction. I thought budhe hai, zor se kya maarenge…toh liyaaz rakha. But he taunted me, saying, ‘Haven’t you eaten anything? Is this the best you’ve got?’ I hit a little harder. But he still wasn’t impressed. ‘Maza nahi aaya yaar, kaise khiladi ho tum.’ So I took a couple of steps forward and unleashed a powerful hit on his left. It was so quick, he couldn’t even get his stick down in time. He smiled, and told me, ‘you are a brainy player, you’ll play for India some day.’”
Babu himself coached the Indian Airlines team till the 70s at the ground named after him. The former India captain, they say, was as stylish off the field as he was on it. Hailing from a royal family, he was a professional hunter, had a thing for hats and enjoyed smoking cigars. During training sessions, he used to sit on the topmost tier of the stadium, recalls former Lucknow hostel trainee Romeo James, with a mike in his hand and puffing a cigar.
Every time the players made an error, Babu used to bellow out: “Aye Baangdoooos…” It didn’t really mean anything (even if it did, the players never dared to ask him) but that was the sign to stop play. Babu used to walk all the way down to the pitch and explain to them their mistake, in his trademark witty way. “If we over-hit the pass, he used to remark, ‘give him a scooter as well if you want him to get that ball,’” James, who was coached by Babu briefly, says. “He demonstrated and corrected our mistakes then and there. So it stuck with us forever.”
After Babu, legendary coach Jhamanlal Sharma carried the baton. The KD Singh Babu Stadium had concrete galleries, which were uneven and not too wide. Sharma, a Padma Shri awardee, made his players dribble the ball on it, thirty-five rounds every day.
The players had to bend and run. It gave them a peripheral vision of the ground, being able to look up and also focus on the ball simultaneously.
Sharma followed the players with a stick in his hand. Every time a player lifted his back, he used to get one on his backside. By controlling the wobbling ball, their stick-work got better as did their dribbling skills. “We have been taught since the beginning that if you can’t control the ball, you are useless,” Sujit says.
At the Meerut hostel, the players used to sneak into the badminton hall every night at 2 and hit the cork ball against the wall until 6am, Sujit adds. “Your reflexes get better by hitting the ball against the wall. Roz ball faad dete the.”
After decades of neglect, 70s and 80s were easily the two best decades for UP hockey. Hockey historian K Arumugam says the power equation in Indian hockey back then was such that lobbying played a key role.
In 1952, opinion was divided over the captaincy for the Helsinki Olympics between the Punjab and UP lobby. The players voted but it was still equal. “Finally, the secretary of the Indian Hockey Federation cast his vote. He was from UP and preferred KD Singh Babu. That is how he became the captain,” Arumugam says. “That changed once Ashwini Kumar became the president.”
Another hurdle for the UP players during that time was that for the three Olympics between 1952 and 1960, no Muslim player was selected because a few of them had migrated to Pakistan after taking part in the 1948 Games. It ended with Ali Syed’s (not to be mistaken with Syed Ali) selection for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. “Families of many players were divided after partition. I remember during one of our tours to Pakistan, Abdi’s sister came to meet us in Karachi. Abdi was from Varanasi but a part of his family had moved to Pakistan,” Sujit says.
The tide turned in the 1970s, though. Indian teams were virtually made up of players from here. For a European tour of the junior India team in 1982, 11 players out of 16 were from the Meerut sports hostel. They included goalkeeper RS Rawat, fullback MP Singh, midfielders Sujit, Abdi and Mir Ranjan Negi, right-out Mukesh Kumar, right-in Shafique Ahmed Khan, centre forward Naeem, left-in Fahim and left-out Yasin Zafar.
At the 1988 Seoul Olympics, six players in the squad were from the Lucknow hostel: Rawat, MP Singh, Sujit, Vivek Singh, Jagbir Singh and Shahid. Between 1976 and 1996, the state produced around 60 internationals, including a dozen Olympians.
They acquired fame domestically and internationally with their body dodges and ball control. Wherever the Lucknow sports hostel team went, they attracted thousands of spectators. “There are two types of fans. One, who wants his team to win, no matter how. Then there are those who are ok with their team losing but appreciate the way they played. We had more of the latter,” Sujit says.
They were individualistic in nature, the inventors of ‘jalebi’ style hockey. And their carefree attitude and bravado endeared them even more. But it would also contribute to their slide.
The overbearing attitude of the players fostered indiscipline. When MP Ganesh once tried to substitute Shahid (this was an era when there were football-like subs in hockey), he turned to the coach and expressed his displeasure by saying: “I am Padma Shri (which he won in 1981) and you are not.”
That was the beginning of the friction between the two and at the 1988 Seoul Games, Ganesh did not start Shahid in a crucial match against Great Britain. India needed a draw in that match to progress to the semifinals but eventually lost 3-0.
Zafar Iqbal recently joked about Shahid’s reluctance to pass the ball. When he was called for a tournament launch, Zafar enquired who the other guests would be. When told Shahid would be one of them, he laughed: “Why have you called us? Game mein ball nahi deta tha, yahan mike nahi denge.”
Back at the Lucknow sports hostel, they never evolved their coaching techniques after the game shifted from grass to turf, which led to further decline. The last big player from UP was right-out Pawan Kumar, who played at the Atlanta Olympics.
Once Jyothikumaran began his second tenure as IHF secretary, the power equation again came into fray. This time, players from Tamil Nadu were given preference while UP’s slide continued.
They never really recovered from the slide. Today, Danish Mujtaba and Amir Khan are two players from UP in the senior squad while Ajit Kumar Pandey and Sumit Kumar were currently part of the junior World Cup team. But none of these players are the products of the Lucknow sports hostel, which is stuck in time.
They hope that the junior World Cup will be a catalyst to help the state find its lost status as the cradle of Indian hockey. Syed Ali, who organises the KD Singh Babu Memorial tournament every year, spends hours on the maidan trying to spot the next Shahid. “These players these days,” he says, shaking his head, “jalebi banane nahi aati. They can’t dodge.”
The pain in his voice is apparent. But the bond between his city and hockey is such, he says, that a talent will soon emerge. In typical Lucknowi style, Ali sums up hockey’s love with the city, and vice versa, with a fine 17th century couplet by Sheikh Imam Baksh Nasikh Lakhnawi. “Lakhnau mujh par fida hai, mein fida-e-Lakhnau. (I am in love with Lucknow, and Lucknow is in love with me).”
The glory days may exist no more. But the romance lives on.