HOCKEY: SHAME IN MUNICH

Published October 2, 2022
Left-half Fazalur Rehman in the number 6 shirt tackles a German player as Captain Asad Malik looks on during the final | File photo
Left-half Fazalur Rehman in the number 6 shirt tackles a German player as Captain Asad Malik looks on during the final | File photo

It was only recently that Germany observed the 50th anniversary of the attack on Israeli athletes and officials at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The ceremony held at the site of the massacre, was attended by the presidents of Germany and Israel as well as the International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach.

The said attack was carried out by the Palestinian Black September group, who took hostage members of the Israeli Olympic team at the Olympic Village. Rescue efforts led to a gunfight. Eleven Israelis, a German policeman as well as five Palestinian attackers died after a stand-off at the Olympic Village and the nearby airfield. Some called for the cancellation of the remaining programme. Still, the Olympic Games resumed after a day of mourning.

Apart from this gory incident, there was also a bizarre one directly linked to the Games’ action which grabbed headlines. It occurred at the hockey final between Pakistan and West Germany.

Any mention of the 1972 Olympics will surely remind Pakistani sports followers from the time of the final. At the time, Pakistan ruled the hockey world. A year before, they had won the first World Cup, to add to their gold medals from the 1968 Olympics and 1970 Asian Games.

It is 50 years since the Munich Olympics, recalled most often for a bloody tragedy. But it was also the Games that showed up the Pakistan hockey team as very bad losers

Led by Asad Malik, the scorer of the gold medal-winning goal in the 1968 Olympics final, Pakistan fielded a fairly strong side in 1972, a blend of youth and experience. But they had a huge setback a few days before their first match. Their legendary penalty-corner striker Tanvir Dar, who had played a stellar role in the victorious march at the 1971 World Cup and was the top scorer with eight goals in that tournament, got injured in a practice match against Australia.

The Green Shirts still began well without their scoring machine, beating France 3-0. Against the 1971 World Cup runners-up Spain, it was a 1-1 draw. The third match was against Uganda. The year 1972 remains the East Africans’ only appearance at Olympics hockey. With nine Sikh players of Indian origin in their squad, they fought well but eventually went down 1-3 to Pakistan.

Next was the most anticipated pool match between the reigning champions and the fancied hosts. The jam-packed stadium was thrilled to see West Germany go 2-0 up through penalty-corners. Pakistan retaliated well and applied immense pressure. Munnawar-uz-Zaman halved the deficit also via a penalty-corner. But after two penalty strokes that came our way were misfired by vice captain Saeed Anwar, Pakistan went down 1-2.

Pakistan recovered from the loss to win the last three pool matches: Argentina (3-1), Malaysia (3-0) and Belgium (3-1).

The frustrated Pakistani players vented during the victory ceremony. Rather than receiving their silver medals around their necks, almost all of them grabbed them in their hands. Some even swung them around and refused to face the West German flag as it was raised.

Then, in the semi-final, they faced their traditional rivals India. The atmosphere was charged as it was the first meeting between the two giants of world hockey after the 1971 war. The Green Shirts began well and got a penalty stroke in the 11th minute. With the regular taker Saeed Anwar off-colour, left-half Fazalur Rehman was sent to take the hit. He made the score 1-0. And three minutes before the end of the first half, left-winger Shahnaz Sheikh doubled the lead through a spectacular individual effort.

The Indians came out strongly in the second half to become the dominant side. They had chances through open play and also forced several penalty corners. India was counting on their terrific penalty-corner striker and one of the lead scorers of the tourney, Mukhbain Singh, but his efforts were foiled by Islahuddin’s legendary dashes from the goal line. Pakistan’s goalkeeper Sherwani put on an outstanding display. The score remained intact at 2-0 at the final whistle.

At the 1971 World Cup in Spain, Pakistan lost to the hosts in the pool fixture before playing them again in the final. At Munich, too, Pakistan faced West Germany again in the final.

It turned out to be a rough encounter. The Germans utilised their physical advantage to nullify their skillful opponents. Shahnaz was marked by two players almost throughout the game.

Despite all this, the Green Shirts displayed some good hockey and, in the last 10 minutes of the first half, two good chances came their way. Asad Malik, who had developed a knee problem, missed a sitter. Mudassar scored off a rebound but the goal was disallowed as a Pakistani player was ruled offside.

The umpires from neutral continents, Horacio Servetto from Argentina and Vale Richard Jewell from Australia, had a tough time. Some of their decisions didn’t go down well with the Pakistani players. Skipper Asad Malik and Shahnaz Sheikh were shown the yellow card for not very serious offences. The advantage rule was also not applied fairly.

With less than 10 minutes left in the match, Michael Krause scored off a penalty-corner. The Green Shirts protested, as the ball had gone to the net directly, not allowed according to the prevailing rules. But the goal stood and Germany won gold for the first time, thus becoming the first country other than India and Pakistan to win the Olympics title since 1920.

The frustrated Pakistani players vented during the victory ceremony. Rather than receiving their silver medals around their necks, almost all of them grabbed them in their hands. Some even swung them around and refused to face the West German flag as it was raised.

They also turned their backs as the West German national anthem was played. Shahnaz Sheikh even put his silver medal around his shoe for a while. Then overstepping all limits, Pakistan’s reserve goalkeeper Aslam poured a pail of water on a senior FIH official.

Even the Pakistani spectators and Pakistan Olympics officials entered the ground and booed and pushed around the German officials.

Three Pakistani radio commentators, Farooq Mazhar, S.M. Naqi and Shaukat Kamal, who continuously commented on the “biased umpiring” and thus provoked the Pakistani public and even the Pakistan President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto — who subsequently threatened to suspend diplomatic ties with Argentina, umpire Servetto’s country — got into trouble later.

After watching the match recording, it was realised that the radio commentators had misled people. There had been a few umpiring mistakes but it was not grossly “biased” as had been portrayed by the commentators. All three were blacklisted for any more sports assignments.

The Pakistan team’s behaviour prompted the International Hockey Federation to take disciplinary action against Pakistan. Initially, it was suggested to ban Pakistan from international hockey events for a time. Then it was proposed that the 13 players who had misbehaved and their manager Dr Ghulam Rasool Chaudhry be banned for life.

Eventually, a one year ban was imposed on the offending 13 players, thus making them ineligible to play in the 1973 World Cup.

The five players who escaped the ban were the injured full-back Tanvir Dar, the two reserve half-backs Akhtar Rasool and Iftikhar Syed, and two reserve forwards, Zahid Sheikh and Umar Farooq.

Pakistan were forced to field a second string at the 1973 World Cup, which included only Tanvir Dar from the 1972 Olympics team. But Pakistan’s B side surprised everyone by finishing fourth at the second World Cup. They topped the pool but lost the semi-final and the third position playoff by the barest of margins. Such was the depth of talent in Pakistan hockey at the time.

The writer is a freelance sports journalist based in Lahore.

He tweets @IjazChaudhry1
Email: ijaz62@hotmail.com

Published in Dawn, EOS, October 2nd, 2022

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