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It would be Germany this time: Anwar Khan (8/10/2004)
--Arun Arnaw
An interview with Pak hockey living legend

Anwar Ahmed Khan is one of the hockey greats, produced by Pakistan in its early years. A midfielder of a class of his own, a master craftsman and a tactician of immense sense of purpose and presence of mind, he played a vital role in establishing Pakistan as a top hockey nation in the world in his playing days.

Represented Pakistan in three Olympics and two Asian Games Anwar Ahmed Khan was born on September 24, 1933 at Bhopal. He learned the basics of hockey and honed his skill while playing on the Model School ground and Aish Bagh maidan in Bhopal. He proved to be a fast learner and at 17 he was selected in the Bhopal team, which happened to be one of the strongest teams of the country at that time. He then played in the Obaidullah Gold Cup and impressed the hockey pundits with his tackling, recovery and mobility.

He moved to Pakistan in 1953 and soon got selected in the Sind Province team. His first major break through came in 1954 when he was picked for the Malaysian tour but he couldn’t make the trip because of leg injury. Then came the Melbourne Olympics and he was the enormous choice for the half line. He played brilliantly and helped Pakistan reach the finals for the first time, where it went down to India by a solitary goal.

He was an important member of the Pakistan team that dethroned India from the top of the hockey world at the Tokyo Asiad in 1958. His firm and gritty performance was widely appreciated by the hockey experts and ex players. He again played an epic role in Pakistan’s historic triumph over India in Rome Olympics final. It was he who fed Naseer Bunda to score the all-important goal in the final. He was also a part of the team that retained the gold medal in the Jakarta Asian Games. He also represented Pakistan in the Tokyo Olympic Games, which happened to be his last international commitment as a player. After retirement he also served Pak hockey in various capacities. He coached the Pak team that won gold medal in Tehran Asian Games in 1974 and was manager in the Kuala Lumpur World Cup in 1975.

Recently he was in Bhopal. This correspondent met him at his relative’s residence. Here are the excerpts –

Q: How do you differentiate present day hockey from your time!

A: A lot of changes have taken place in between the two eras. The style of play world over has changed. Many Laws have been rewritten. Today’s hockey is fast and competitive. With the arrival of synthetic surfaces one needs to be physically more strong. The players are fitter than that of our time. They have to exert themselves more than hundred percent today even against the lower ranked countries. In all it is more demanding from the player’s point of view. Despite this, grace and flair of old hockey is diminishing. In my time people come to witness the delightful game of the players like Babu, Balbir Singh and Abdul Waheed, but today you can’t recall any such instance. Virtually there is no hero in today’s hockey.

Q: How do you see the frequent changes in Laws in recent times!

A: Time to time changes in Laws are necessary. Some changes made in past, proved good for hockey and players. These changes accelerated the pace of the game and cut short time wasting tactics. But I would say most of the Laws went against us and our style of hockey. They benefited European hockey and its style. Power play has replaced the skill.

Q: Please throw more light on it

A: Very recently IHF has come up with a new set of Laws for the penalty corners and they are to be implemented in the Athens Olympic Games. This Law makes penalty corner defenders a frightened lot and restricts them from charging down to foil the bid of penalty corner execution. Without asserting the effect of these Laws on the play, the implementation of them in such an important meet is not a wise move.

Q: Since Pakistan has a great drag flicker in Sohail Abbas and in the opinion of many experts, this Law will help him a lot

A: May be. But my concern is different. It will put unnecessarily more pressure on the defenders and hamper the balance of the game. Two or three players who are good enough in cracking the penalty corners, will hold the key of a match.

Q: India and Pakistan now both have recruited foreign coaches for the Athens Olympics. Your comments!

A: Looking to present day scenario this step should be welcome. Besides mastering in continental skill it is a time to adopt strong things of the European hockey. The persons holding responsibilities in the Federation must review the progress of the players and chalk out a strategy.

Q: What chances are there for India and Pakistan in the Athens Olympics. In your opinion who would emerge as a winner!

A: With the induction of Dhanrai Pillay India must perform better. Pakistan is placed in a tough grou

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