Asian Games

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Remembering Mohammed Shahid while he fights yet another battle in Gurgaon

I don’t remember watching Mohammad Shahid play.

Hassan Sardar—his Pakistani counterpart—was much more of a household name in those days.

But I do recall—faintly—the 7-1 drubbing of the Indian men’s hockey side in the 1982 Asiad final in New Delhi.

It was a tragedy—a loss wasn’t unexpected—-but  humiliation was disaster.

Mohammed Shahid was a member of that squad; he was also part of the 1980 side that last won gold for India at an Olympics.

But it was goalie Mir Ranjan Negi who was anointed villain of the piece. He was termed a ‘traitor’ and there were claims that he had been bribed by his opponents.

Negi said:

“Everywhere I went, I was abused by the public. Nothing matters to me more than playing for my country. I am a proud Indian and will always be so. There were lots of things that happened in the run-up to the final. You find out. I will not speak about the politics that contributed to our defeat.”

His team-mate Zafar Iqbal later said:

“The entire team was to blame; we forwards missed chances, the defence left huge gaps that the Pakistanis exploited. Despite making great efforts to cover the gaps, poor Negi became a sitting duck and the Pakistanis scored at will […] He was blamed solely, but every player was to blame […] The atmosphere was vicious. I remember someone claiming that he had seen Negi come out of the Pakistan High Commission on match eve […] Some even enquired whether Negi, with his first name Mir, was Muslim.”

Hassan Sardar believes that the scoreline was no indicator of how close the final really was.

He says:

“Do you know who the man-of-match that day was? It was our 17-year-old goalkeeper, also named Shahid (Ali Khan) who made more than eight saves that day. Nobody remembers that, the scoreline should have been 7-5 or 7-6, just an indication of how good the Indian team was back then.”

Mohammed Shahid now lies in a hospital bed in Gurgaon fighting for his life against a liver condition that afflicted him following a bout of jaundice and dengue.

Shahid is an employee with the Railways. They will be picking up all his medical expenses.

His condition is still critical.

The Sports Ministry has announced a grant of Rs. 10 lakhs for the former Olympian.

Sundeep Misra of Firstpost describes  Shahid thus:

“In the late 70’s and early 80’s, you didn’t go to watch hockey. You went to watch magic; mesmerizing magic created by a man from Benares called Mohammed Shahid.

Those were the kind of skills that couldn’t be taught. No amount of coaching camps, elite coaches could create supple wrists that, honestly, were an extension of the hockey stick. Shahid, short but lithe displayed his dribbling skills like a card-dealer in a casino. Defences retracted inwards, backing off not willing to take on this twisting and turning dervish whose only challenge in life seemed to be cutting through defences like a combine harvester in a wheat field. Fans watched in disbelief. Opposition coaches gave up. Defenders wanted to quit the sport. Little kids wanted to know ‘dodge kaise karte hain’. Commentators lost their voice if Shahid didn’t have the ball. In those days, Mohammed Shahid was hockey.”

A Times Of India story called him “the genius of dribble”.

Shahid himself was much more self-effacing.

He said:

“Look, I am Mohammed Shahid. That will not ever change. Yes, I was India captain; people said I had God given talent with dribbling skills. Mujhe bhi yaad hai, har waqt mar dodge, mar dodge. Par ek time ke baad mann bhar gaya (Even I remember dodging past players all the time. But after a while, it was enough).”

Sardar has fond memories of playing against Shahid.

He said:

“Yeh bade afsos ki baat hai (It is quite unfortunate to hear of this) Kya kamaal ka khiladi tha! Aisi behetreen stickwork modern hockey mein bahut kum dekhne ko milti thi. We may have been sworn rivals on the field, but I was a Shahid fan. All our pre-match plans would revolve around how to check Shahid and he would simply destroy it all. We could never catch him

But do you know, Shahid and I were part of a dream attacking trio that could never be realised. Shahid would often tell me, ‘Hassan-bhai, had we played together in the same team, no one would have been able to touch us.’ Imagine a team where Zafar was left-in, I was centre forward and Shahid on the right…”

Hassan laughingly recollected an incident during the 1986 bilateral series when he was at the receiving end of Shahid’s wizardry and threatened to sort Shahid out by visiting his hotel room.

He said:

“Blind with rage, I told him, ‘Arrey, mujhe sey panga kyun le rahe ho?! Lag jayegi, toh udte hue jaoge.’ But it just wasn’t us alone. None of the European teams could ever catch him. In the Pakistan camp, we would say, ‘Yeh sabke phephre nikal deta hai, bhaga bhaga ke…”

Shahid has the respect and love of his countrymen, teammates and opponents.

Here’s hoping that he makes a full recovery and soon.


Mohammed Shahid passed away aged 56 on July 20, 2016. May his soul rest in peace. 

Boxing and wrestling are latest entrants to mushrooming leagues in Indian sport

It’s said about the Indian monsoon: When it rains, it pours.

Indian sport has been enjoying a monsoon of sorts over the past few years.

It’s been showering leagues.

The mushrooming of leagues in various sports and their live telecast whereby  converts to games other than cricket are drawn in can only be good news for Indian sport persons.

The latest entrants into the fray are the Pro Wrestling League and the Indian Boxing Council.

While the Pro Wrestling League is launched under the aegis of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) by Pro Sportify and consists of six city-based franchises each featuring 11 freestyle grapplers, six male and five female, the Indian Boxing Council acts as a licensee for promoters wishing to launch boxing leagues of their own across the country.

The council is, however, not affiliated to the Indian Boxing Federation which means that pugilists wishing to represent the country will stay out until the murkiness around the venture is cleared.

Boxers, who are past their prime, but still fighting fit are enthusiastic about the possibilities. It will add to their meager earnings from the sport.

Boxing and wrestling are sports that attract participants from lower-middle class families. This may just be their ticket out.

These sports are also the country’s best avenues for medals at the Olympic and Asian games.

The better the prospects for aspiring contenders, the better the training facilities offered and the more attractive  a career it is.

The world can be their oyster. Can Indian pearls seize their chances?

PR Sreejesh: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t

PR Sreejesh does a ‘Psy’ act under the bar.

What he said:

“So yeah, you can term my performance in the final as my `Gangnam act under the bar’.”

Indian hockey goalkeeper and member of the victorious Asian Games squad, PR Sreejesh, is happy with his ‘dance moves‘ during the penalty shootout against Pakistan in the final. The goalie foiled two out of four attempts by their sub-continental arch-rivals.

Sreejesh is a huge fan of the Korean pop star Psy specifically his hit number ‘Gangnam Style‘. The Korean singer-dancer performed at the opening ceremony of the Incheon Games.

Sreejesh said:

 “I like music and love to dance as well. Whenever I travel to practice, I listen to music and this time in Korea I was listening to Psy. I was happy to meet him during the opening ceremony and was inspired by him.”

On playing Pakistan twice:

“We didn’t play well against them in the group stage. So we reflected on our performance in that match and felt that we really need to improve. We didn’t want negativity to creep into our minds and thought positively. The team spirit was excellent. We knew the final would be a tough one and fought as a unit. And that paid dividends.

There is extra motivation to do well against Pakistan. Believe me, I was under no pressure when I went into goal for the shootout. I was 100% sure that I am going to keep the Pakistanis at bay and we are going to win. The team had huge belief in me and they also felt I would do nothing wrong in the shootout.”

On his goalkeeping:

“I can still improve. My goalkeeping has improved considerably when I had short stints with two goalkeeping coaches in the past, Martin Drijver and Dave Staniforth.

I hope we can have a permanent goalkeeping coach. Then not just my performance, the performance of other goalkeepers can also improve.”

What he really meant:

 “You’ve got to be light on your feet and agile both as a goalie and a performer. It’s all about style, Gangnam style.”

What he definitely didn’t:

 “Now if I could only get Psy to co-star with me on ‘India’s Dancing Superstar’ or ‘Zara Nachke Dikha’.”

Randeep Hooda: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t

Randeep Hooda is Bollywood’s Dark Horse.

What he said:

“While announcing my name, they said `ladies and gentlemen, Bollywood is in equestrian sport now. Please give a big round of applause.“

Bollywood star, Randeep Hooda, recounts his initial competitive experience in equestrian sport.

He said:

“I was in an event called fault and out (one mistake and you are out of the competition)… and my horse refused the first jump itself.

I can’t tell you what I went through. I didn’t know where to look.As an actor, a celebrity, I draw extra attention and if I fail people are quick to pull me down. That’s one of the reasons I need to work extra hard, so I don’t make a mockery of myself. I needed two more years before I got into a winning spree.”

The macho actor recently won seven medals, including three gold and two silver, at the National Equestrian Championship in dressage and show-jumping events.

“I would have loved to be part of this strong Asian Games contingent.But as my movie career is just gathering momentum, I didn’t even try this time. By the next edition, I want to be in a position to take off for eight-nine months and give it a shot.”

“Like every sportsperson, I want to win a medal for my country . I want to be on the podium when the Indian flag is being hoisted.”

What he really meant:

“I could have done without the extra attention. I just wanted to focus on doing well in my event.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“I thought they were referring to my thoroughbreds—Ranji,  Johnny Walker, Simply Supreme,  Rommel and Atilla. They’ve all got showbiz names.”



Om Yun Chol: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t

Om Yun Chol

What he said:

“Have you ever heard that an egg can break a stone?”

North Korean weightlifting champion, Om Yun Chol,  nonpluses journalists at the Incheon Asian Games with a seeming riddle.

The 1.52 metres (five feet) tall North Korean athlete weighing just 56 kilograms (123 pounds)  cleared up the confusion saying that it was a recipe for success propounded by their great leader Marshal Kim Jong Un.

“Take one egg.

Add an idea.

Break a stone with said egg.


is the great man’s mantra.

The North Korean athletes left no stone unturned in professing their love and dedication to their great leader.

Kim Un Guk said:

“In the past, not only for the 17th Asian Games, I had some trouble with my waist. 

But thanks to the warm care of the Respected Marshal Kim Jong Un, I did not feel any trouble in treating the trouble on my waist. So, the warm care and great love of Respected Marshal Kim Jong Un has given me the opportunity to be the champion.”

Another North Korean coach said:

“Our Great Leader has improved all the sports facilities 100 percent and the popularity of weightlifting among North Koreans is very high.

We have a lot of young kids training in weightlifting now and Great Leader Kim Jong Un tries to showcase weightlifting as much as possible.

We all eat the same things together and we train in good facilities, not just in Pyongyang but all over the country.”

What Om Yun Chol really meant:

“Ideas can move mountains.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“How will you have your eggs? Hard-boiled, scrambled or sunny side up? Stone-cold, perhaps? Have a stony seat while I rustle them up. What an idea!”

PV Sindhu: What she said, really meant and definitely didn’t

PV Sindhu

What she said:

“I’ll tell you when I do fall in love.”

PV Sindhu is the best thing to happen to Indian badminton since Saina Nehwal. She has two World Championship bronze medals to her name—a feat no other Indian shuttler has ever achieved. Is she the next big thing or the current big thing? Consistency will tell.

What she really meant:

“I have little time for anything outside badminton. Until then…”

What she definitely didn’t:

“We’ll have a small bio-pic produced when that happens with a theme song titled ‘Dil Yeh Shuttle Hai'”.


Abhinav Bindra: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t

Abhinav Bindra

What he said:

“In shooting, you need to be dumb. You people think differently, but I’m telling you that I have become dumb. I was always humorous by nature but, maybe, no one noticed it. Or, maybe, I looked just too intense or serious to others.”

Abhinav Bindra is so focused on his sport that he seems obtuse.

When questioned whether he has matured with age:

“I would like to enjoy the sport. I am here at the moment because I like the sport more than I used to. In the last few years, I have had this great realisation that I am actually in love with this sport.”

What he really meant:

“What’s seems stupid to most others makes eminent sense to me. Shooting is thus a dumb sport. Don’t you think?”

What he definitely didn’t:

“Humour is in the understanding of the beholder.”

Sirivannavari Nariratana: What she said, really meant and definitely didn’t

Sirivannavari Nariratana

What she said:

“If they treat me as a princess, I would not be here. I’d be in another stable, with beautiful decorations.”

Thai princess,Sirivannavari Nariratana,  is convinced that she is not favored by her fellow athletes at the Incheon Asian Games. The royal debuted in the dressage competition on Saturday, the 20th of September, 2014. Her horse: Prince Charming.

Nariratana is the grand-daughter to Thailand’s regent and was once listed among Forbes’ Top 20 hottest aristocrats.

She was also a participant in badminton at the 2006 Games.

Sirivannavari  said:

“They treat me like friends, a normal rider.”

She added:

“Everybody has the same — the one thing they give me is respect.” 

On her preparation for her first day at the Games:

“For me, it was no problem, it’s like: wake up, some vitamin C, a lot of water and feel fresh, good music — I listened to Rihanna this morning.” 

What she really meant:

“All they’re interested in is what I can do on the field. Will I perform as expected? Am I a competitor? My blue blood lineage counts for little. And my steed cannot differentiate between a noble and a commoner.”

What she definitely didn’t:

“This is just me jockeying for PR. What do you think? Why don’t you join me under my umbrella?
(Ella ella eh eh eh).”

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