Olympian - Hockey -Asad Malik

Pakistans hockey great Asad Malik, who died in a traffic accident last Monday, debuted for Pakistan in 1961 and remained a regular selection till 1972. During his illustrious career, the inside left won a gold and two silvers at the Olympics, a World Cup-winner medal, and two golds and silver at the Asian Games. He captained Pakistan at the 1972 Olympics when he was also the flag bearer of his countrys contingent. Enviable Career!

Small statured Asad was a complete inside forward. Making inroads into the opposition defence, combining with the teammates, creating chances for others, scoring goals himself as well as falling back to assist the defence – he could do anything.

Asad was born in 1941 in Sheikhupura, the district adjoining the metropolitan city of Lahore. The town was a big hockey centre with the game widely played in schools and there were also a number of active clubs.

Under Asad`s captaincy, Government High School Sheikhupura won the coveted Lahore zone school championships, a highly competitive event of the time.

He came into the limelight and there was no looking back. Soon, he was selected for the Sheikhupura district team which was trained by Sheikh Ramzan under whose tutelage a number of players from this district went on to win Pakistan selection. It was the mighty Lahore Zone team, selected from a number of big hockey nurseries including Lahore, Sheikhupura and Sialkot, which participated in the national championships. In 1959, young Asad was in the Lahore zone team.

The 18-year-old made an instant impression and was called to the Pakistan camp for the 1960 Olympics. He failed to make the cut but only a year later Asad was wearing the coveted green shirt as a member of the Pakistan team which toured Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka in 1961. Next year, Asad appeared in his maiden title tournament, Asian Games 1962 where Pakistan retained the title defeating India 2-0.

After the departure of legendary Naseer Bunda, Asad Malik became Pakistans first choice inside left. He had big shoes to fill as Bunda was acknowledged as one of the finest forwards in the world. Asad made his mark in the very first venture as the sides number one inside left.

In 1963, Pakistan made a long tour of Europe. The major assignment was the Pre Olympics tournament in Lyons, French. The team also played matches in Holland, Germany, Belgium, Spain and Britain. Asad shone throughout. The biggest compliment came when a German newspaper compared him with legendary Hungarian footballer Ferenc Puskas, one of games all-time greats, for Asads vision and the ability to build attacks.

In 1964, the big event of the Olympics was waiting. By now, Asad had been joined by his first cousin Saeed Anwar in the Pakistan team. The latter is regarded as Pakistan`s greatest ever right half. At the Tokyo Olympics, Pakistan were the favourites to retain the title but lost to Indiaa in the final 0-1 despite creating a number of goal scoring chances.

The penalty corner experts MH Atif and Munir Dar shared 11 of the 20 Pakistani goals. Asad scored two of the nine goals netted by the forwards. The story was repeated at the 1966 Asian Games. Pakistan lost the title, again going down to India by a solitary goal in the final. Asad had a good tournament. With five goals, he was the team`s second top scorer.

Dethroned of the only two titles of that period, Pakistan Hockey Federation made earnest efforts to regain the glory. By the time, the 1968 Olympics arrived, the team had been moulded into a strong outfit with a number of talented new faces. Asad was now among the senior members. Pakistan regained the lost gold in an imperious manner, winning all the nine matches. Asad, who scored a total of five goals in the tourney, had the honour of netting the gold medal-winning goal in the 2-1 victory over Australia in the final. Great right winger Khalid Mahmood sent an excellent pass to Asad who beautifully side stepped a defender before flicking it over the goal keeper – all in the flash of an eye. Accolades came Asad`s way. He was in the World XI announced at the conclusion of the Olympics. Then he had the honour of his action photograph of that goal in the final immortalised on a Pakistani postage stamp.

Next year, he was conferred Pride of Performance award by the Pakistan government. The 1968 Olympics was Asad Malik`s finest hour.

The 1970 Asian Games were again held in Bangkok where Pakistan had lost the title in 1966. Again, Asad, now the vice-captain, made a meaningful contribution towards his team regaining this title as well. Pakistan defeated the defending champions India 1-0 in the final. Asad was Pakistan`s joint second top scorer with three goals. He was named in the Asian XI.

Pakistan conceived the idea of the World Cup and the inaugural edition was held in the Spanish cities of Barcelona and Terrassa in 1971. They made it to the semis after some difficulty but won the semifinal and final against India and hosts Spain, respectively. Once again, Asad was selected in the World XI.

Thus Pakistan completed the grand slam winning Olympics, World Cup and Asian Games. Asad played a stellar role as manifested by his selection in all three tournament elevens.

The 1972 Olympics saw Asad captaining the national team with his first cousin Saeed Anwar as the vice-captain. Pakistan lost the final to the hosts West Germany in a bitter encounter. Pakistani team “misbehaved” during the victory ceremony and the players were banned from international hockey for life, but later the ban was reduced to one year. It was Asad`s last international outing: 121 appearances and 41 goals.

In early 60s, he had joined PIA, the strongest side on the domestic circuit. After his playing days, Asad remained in charge of the PIA hockey team for a very long period and guided them to no less than 13 national titles besides a few junior national junior championships. PIA and PIA colts provided the highest number of players to the national squads. He retired from PIA as the General Manager Sports.

As many as seven players from the Pakistan junior team, which toured Europe in 1980 with Asad as the manager, were later members of Pakistan`s gold medal-winning team of the 1984 Olympics.

Asad was a thorough gentleman and always avoided confrontation on and off the field. On the field, he was all hard work and full involvement in the game; indefatigable and ran from pole to pole throughout.

Ijaz Chaudhary -Former Media Manager PHF – TNS