The history of Pakistan Hockey is as old as that of the country itself. This was the second team game in which the newly born independent sovereign state made its international debut. A team led by the late Ali lqtedar Shah Dara represented Pakistan in the first Post-War Olympic Hockey Tournament held in London in 1948. Pakistan lost in the play-off for the bronze medal between the losing semifinalists. The same fate met the Pakistan team led by fullback Niaz Khan in the 1952 Olympic Hockey Tournament in Helsinki.
The failure to win even a bronze medal in two successive Olympic contests made the hockey organisers in Pakistan put on their thinking caps. An inquiry committee was set up by the authorities in Pakistan with a senior ICS Officer, Riazuddin Ahmed, as the Convener. The mandate of this probe body was to analyse the cause of the failures in the past and, if possible, to suggest ways and means to improve the game and bring it up to the required international standard. The findings of the inquiry Committee were embodied in a report which came to be regarded as the Blueprint of Pakistan Hockey in the years that followed. The proposals in the said Report were implemented and followed with religious dedication. This resulted in Pakistan defying the jinx and reaching the final of the 1956 Olympic Hockey Tournament in Melbourne (Australia).
Although Pakistan won only the silver medal, she had achieved international recognition as a serious challenger to India’s supremacy as the world leaders in the game. Thereafter Pakistan never looked back and went from strength to strength, setting up new records and milestones enroute to the top.
Between 1956 and 1986, Pakistan recorded unprecedented feats which are still unmatched. Thrice during this period of three decades Pakistan won the Olympic and World Cup crowns. The Asian Games title was won six times and the Champions Trophy in the first two years of its inauguration. Twice Pakistan held three of the world’s most prestigious titles at the same time – the Asian, Olympic and World Cup crowns. No other hockey playing country has achieved this feat in the history of the game so far.
Came 1986. the year when two of the three coveted titles were at stake. Within three weeks Pakistan lost both the Asian Games and the World Cup titles. With India dropping out in the race for top global honours, Pakistan was the lone standard-bearer of Asian Hockey. Quite a few of the great players who donned the green Pakistani shirts had retired or been forced to quit. Thus the teams that went to Seoul for the tenth Asiad and London for the World Cup were deplorably weak. South Korea, the hosts, snatched the Asian games title from Pakistan, a crown she had held since 1970. A team which had lost to Pakistan by ten goals in the ninth Asiad at Delhi four years ago beat Pakistan 2-1 in the final to claim the gold medal and the coveted title. About a fortnight later, Pakistan met much tougher opposition in the World Cup staged in London. Her performance was abysmally dismal. The holders finished second from the bottom, just one rung ahead of India, in a twelve nation contest, It was the irony of fate that the two top teams from Asia who used to fight out for the two top positions in international tournaments not long ago had to play off for the last two places in the 1986 World Cup.
Those humiliating defeats and the loss of two prestigious titles sent a shock wave among the entire nation. This in turn started a wave of indignation against the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF). There was a general demand for urgent punitive action against those who had brought about the two debacles at Seoul and London. History thus repeated itself after nearly three decades when a high-level Inquiry Committee was set tip with Mr. Riazuddin Ahmad against as its Chairman. As was the case in 1953-54, the mandate of the seven-member Inquiry Committee was to ascertain the causes of the dismal debacles and, if, possible. propose remedial measures for eradicating the weaknesses in Pakistan’s hockey with a view to prepare a strong team for defending the Olympic title.” At the start of the Olympic year (1988), the Pakistan Hockey Federation was engrossed in a race against time to train and groom a world-beating team, not only to retain the coveted Olympic crown but also to place Pakistan back at its high perch in world rankings.
Pakistan’s fortune in field hockey for men have fluctuated during the period under review. It goes without saying that no one remains oil top all the time – with four World Cup victories and three Olympic gold plus the same number of victories in the Champions Trophy contests to her credit during the past fifty years of her history as an independent sovereign state, Pakistan has remained among the top four hockey playing nations of the world. In fact, her record in the four major contests of the world (World Cup, Olympic Games, Asian Games & Champions Trophy) has not even been equalled leave alone surpassed.
Pakistan has held more than two of these four times simultaneously more often than any other leading hockey playing nation like Australia, Germany, Holland or even neighbours India. But with the retirement of a good many of stars and, of course, the closing up of the gap between the best and the next best, no other country has shown any consistency at the international level. All such contests thus remain an open race.
Pakistan’s two attempts to regain Olympic glory failed during the period under review. Pakistan could only win a bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics but failed to improve on that performance at Atlanta four years later. This was because Pakistan’s hockey was in a turmoil at home. Twenty four of the 33 under canvas awaiting final trials and selection to undertake the trials and until all their demands were met. The rebellion of the “gand of 24” was master-minded by no less a player than former captain star forward, Shahbaz Ahmed. The issue took an unprecedented turn and had to be referred to the Selection Committee on Sports, Culture and Tourims. This was perhaps the ugliest chapter in the history of Pakistan’s hockey.
Shahbaz Ahmed was finally blown to Atlanta and diplomatic pressure was used to have been included in the Pakistan’s Olympic squad at the eleventh hour. The Pakistan’s team final phase of training and preparation to recapture Olympic glory was thus very badly effected the team that was exported to Atlanta was ill-balanced and under-trained for the tough task that lay ahead. As expected, Pakistan failed to mount the Hockey Stand and returned home without even a bronze, finishing sixth in a 12-nation contest
Pakistan’s record in the World Cup contests during the past six years has not been too bad. Lahore was the venue of the seventh World Cup tournament for the first time in 1990. Those who said that Pakistan had built a “white elephant” called the Lahore Hockey Stadium with a seating capacity of 50,000 spectators had to eat their words when as many as 60,000- plus thronged the spacious Stadium to witness in Pakistan-Australia semi-final which Pakistan won and the Pakistan – Holland final which Pakistan lost.
Pakistan improved on that performance and avenged that defeat by beating Holland in the final of the next World Cup contest staged in Sydney in 1994. Thus Pakistan won the World Cup for the fourth time since its inception in 1971. This is a feat which no other member country of the FIH has recorded so far. It is the only major title Pakistan holds currently.