IN and around London, the buzz is all about Olympics. Even at Headingley as the second Test between England and South Africa moves on at a snail-pace, the thoughts of the mediamen and that of the crowd are lot more focused on the winners and losers of the medals that are on offer for various events at the Games.
At various intervals in the ground here, I constantly heard a huge roar or a cheer from the crowd, though there was no boundary scored by century-maker Alviro Petersen. And that is when everyone of us in the press box realised that Great Britain has bagged another medal.
Though Pakistan’s campaign to get amongst the medal winners continues, their only hope hockey suffered a 1-4 drubbing at the hands of hosts Great Britain on Friday, which also dented their chances of making the podium now. Hockey is our national game and continues to enjoy the same status despite having suffered greatly due to the politics in the ranks of its governing body, the PHF, and the team’s many poor performances in recent times.
Miracles, however, do happen but I loathe to say that the present-day hockey in Pakistan is not up to it at all.
Having said that, we all are really proud of our glorious past in the game and what Pakistan achieved when they bagged their first gold in the 1960 Rome Olympics by beating India in the final — thus ending the arch-rival’s run of six successive gold medals at the Olympic Games.
Pakistan had been taking part in Olympics since the 1948 London Games and for the first time bagged a silver in the 1956 Games at Melbourne. But before the 1960 Olympics, they did get a huge boost by winning gold in the 1958 Asian Games in Tokyo.
Hockey was played on grass then and the skills and technique differed a lot than the modern-day game with changed rules and artificial surfaces of various colours.
Pakistan hockey team, led by Abdul Hameed Hamidi — a military man and brilliant player all round — however won the hearts of the whole nation when they won the Rome Olympics gold.
The Green-shirts were brilliant on the field as they beat Australia 3-0, Poland 8-0 and Japan 10-0 to reach the quarter-finals.
Bashir Ahmed, who had replaced Munir Dar as a substitute, played superbly in the quarter-final against West Germany. A fantastic goal by forward Abdul Waheed Khan put Pakistan ahead but the Germans equalised. In the end, however, Ahmed Naseer Bunda netted a much-needed winner.
In the semi-final, Pakistan had a 1-0 win over Spain when Manzoor Atif, another military man, converted a corner. Hamidi was as brilliant. Of broad and strong shoulders, Hamidi excelled in the field saving a penalty bully.
India, led by the Anglo-Indian wizard Leslie Claudius, were confident enough to once again prove their supremacy in field hockey but were stunned in the end by a match-winning goal from the diminutive Naseer Bunda in the end as Pakistan clinched its first gold in the Olympics.
Bunda was his nickname and he belonged to Rawalpindi. A deft dribbler and a foxy little character, left-in Bunda was waiting for the opportunity to bring glory for his country.
Right-in Hamidi had passed the ball to Nur Alam, the right-out, who in a flash and with a brief run hit the ball in the direction of the ever alert Bunda who dodged one to flick the ball on the left of the net to uncrown India.
I remember well the stalwarts who comprised that Pakistan team including Anwar Khan, the legendary defender, Ghulam Rasool Chaudhry, father of the present coach Akhtar Rasool, and Habib Kiddie, not forgetting the great Abdul Waheed Khan — the finest centre forward of his time who scored six goals in the competition. Hamidi scored nine and Bunda five.
Pakistan’s dominance can be gauged from the fact that they scored 25 goals in the games and conceded only one.
They were given a heroes welcome upon their return. Hamidi though retired after four Olympics, the others continued to bring Pakistan laurels in the game.
I watched for the first time the Olympic gold winning team at my hometown in Hyderabad when they came to play an exhibition match.
All eyes were on Bunda, the Rome hero who received the greatest applause from the crowd. He was hailed similarly, no matter where he played in Pakistan, as the team toured the country.
Those were the days. The more I think of it the more I rejoice to have seen the greats of Pakistan hockey and its legendary figures.