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Down Memory Lane
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1978 WC: Goals and Guns are Galore (2/23/2010)
--s2h Team
In 1975, the FIH decided on a new international fixture pattern, with the world cup to be held every four years, midway between Olympics. The 4th World Cup was awarded to Argentina and was thus the first major hockey competition ever held in South America. The hoodoo that hovered over Pakistan’s teams since triumphed at the first world cup was finally exorcised when they became the first team win the world cup twice, at Buenos Aires in April 1978 seven lean years, without a world title, were over.

The rains of Malaysia seemed to have laid in waiting for Buenos Aires. No sooner had the World’s top teams assembled again for a world cup than the heavens opened. A torrential downpour left the Campo de Polo under water the day before the start.

Conditions were not ideal but it did not seem to curb Pakistan whose five-man attack was invariably a joy to watch. They won all 8 of their matches, scoring 35 goals and conceived only four. They needed extra-time to beat Germany in the semifinals but Islah scored a brilliant goal to settle that match. In the other semis, Netherlands, with tactical plays gleaned from European soccer, defeated Australia 3-2, two goals coming off the sticks of their formidable corner striker, Litjens.

The final was a splendid game in which both sides displayed a high level of skill. Pakistan won 3-2, the winning goal being a corner conversion by Ehsanullah, a new full back.

Kruize, happily recovered after a road accident, and Litjens scored the Dutch goals. Litjens, with is blunderbuss of a stick, finished as top scorer with 15 goals, the world cup record. Strodter of Germany, now the coach of the German women’s team (recent world cup silver medalists behind the Netherlands), scored only one less while another corner striker, Paul Cooke of Austrlaia, was third highest scorer.

One of the saddest sights at Buenos Aires was to see the performance of the holders, India, who after their all time low of 7th at Montreal Olympics, could do no better than 6th.

Buenos Aires will also be recalled for the military presence. Security has become a major problem at sports events and the troops were there to protect not only the players but the safety of the Polo Club property

The press not unaware of the disappearance of many Argentinean journalists, found the regimentation more than a little aggravating. They were quite non-plussed, then, by an invitation to a party by the military.

A coach arrived to take the press men to a a barracks. As ever the military were armed on arrival at the barracks, we were almost marched to a mess but no sooner were we inside the building than the guns disappeared, off came battle tunics, and one hell of party it was. Eventually it was time to go. The farewells were genuine but, drunk or sober, we still left accompanied by armed guards.

This was another finely organized tournament. It was highlighted by Pakistan’s brilliance, especially on the wings, in the person of Islah and Sami, but remembered, especially, for the weapons; the guns around the pitch and the big sticks on it.

Source: Patrick Rowley in 'World Hockey'.

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