Apropos the article ‘The legend of Balbir Singh’ (Eos, June 7) paying tribute to Indian hockey legend Balbir Singh senior, who passed away in Chandigarh on May 25, aged 95. The article carries a photograph of Balbir standing on top of the podium to receive the hockey gold medal at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Next to him, is another hockey legend, Pakistan’s Abdul Hamid, popularly known as Hamidi, who led the country to glory in both the Olympic and Asian games and brought similar laurels for Pakistan.
Pakistan’s team started giving a tough time to India which was ruling the game from 1928 when they became the world champions in the Amsterdam Olympics.
Hamidi was a member of Pakistan’s hockey team in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics respectively and captain for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, where Pakistan won a silver medal. It was Pakistan’s first ever medal in any Olympic discipline.
As an outstanding inside right, Hamidi was a prolific goal scorer and his tally of 16 Olympic goals remained Pakistan’s record till 2008, when penalty corner specialist Sohail Abbas surpassed it. He was also a role model for his teammates who led by example. Under his captaincy Pakistan won the gold medal in the 1958 Asian games beating India in the final.
Hamidi attained eternal legend status by skippering Pakistan to their Olympic gold in 1960 at the Rome Olympics. That final is regarded as one of the finest moments in Pakistan’s sports history along with the cricket world cup victory in 1992. Under his brilliant leadership, Pakistan ended India’s 30 year domination in hockey on Sept 9, 1960.
He served the game in almost every capacity: player, captain, manager of the team and as secretary of Pakistan Hockey Federation. He attained similar success in his professional career, rising to the rank of brigadier. Hamidi passed away on July 12, 2019 at the age of 92 in Islamabad.
A hockey lover
Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2020