Aslam Sher Khan is best remembered for the penalty corner he converted in the dying minutes of the World Cup semi-final against Malaysia in 1975. He also represented India in the 1972 Munich Olympics. Aslam spoke to Shantanu Srivastava.
In my time, players mostly came from humble background. I was lucky because my father (Ahmed Sher Khan) was an Olympic champion. He played the 1936 Berlin Olympics with Major Dhyan Chand. So, almost everyone in the family used to talk about hockey, and it impacted me in a big way when I heard that my father has won an Olympic gold medal.
I was very young when I donned Indian colours. There was this big responsibility of being an Indian hockey player.
The 1975 World Cup was truly memorable for me. I got my first game in the semi-final against Malaysia. There are always factions in the team. I was made to sit out for most of tournament though my ‘74 performance was good.
Before the semi-final against Malaysia, I was walking with manager Balbir Singh Senior and told him, "I can make the team win." He was a good man, but he alone couldn’t do much as the decision rested with the entire team management. Team was playing good but we were not able to score. India were getting hell a lot of penalty corners, but we failed to take full advantage.
The Malaysian goalkeeper was like a rock. With 10 minutes left, the manager thought the game was over. Then, the coach and manager started arguing. Manager told the coach to bring me in for Surjit Singh (who was missing penalty corners). But coach said if we make the change, Surjit’s confidence will be dented.
Then, only seven minutes were left, and Balbir Singh Senior got worked up. Somehow, the coach agreed. Before I went in, Balbir Singh Senior said, “Son, only you can make India win.” That was emotional. I was confident, very confident. As soon as I touched the ball, my confidence soared even more.
Soon, India got a penalty corner. And, that’s the moment that changed the entire thing. BP Govinda pushed the ball. Captain Ajitpal Singh stopped the ball on the circle. My mother had given me a tawiz (locket) and there was a mini Quran inside. But she never told me what was inside. She had said, “Whenever you see any crisis, as a last resort, kiss the tawiz and, Inshallah, whatever you want to be do, will be done.” So, I kissed the locket and was ready for my shot.
The ball came exactly at the spot where I wanted it to come. I was a little confused as to which corner I should beat the goalkeeper. I thought the right corner was very difficult. It had to be precise. In the left, I felt, there was a little more chance. In the middle, the goalkeeper was there.
Then, something sparked my mind and told me to hit right. It occurred at the last minute. And, I hit right… and the goalkeeper went left. It was a clean shot. There wasn’t much power, but it held it’s line. So, the goal happened. India got a fresh lease of life at 2-2, five minutes before the final whistle. There was enormous pressure on the Malaysians as hosts with 50,000 people watching. Harcharan Singh scored in the extra time, and India reached the final.
The match against Pakistan was always huge, huge one for various purposes. Their style was similar to ours. When we played against the others, there was a difference, but Pakistan played same hockey. Pakistan, then, were always winning against us. But with God on our side, we played better that day. That was a huge thing, because we first beat hosts Malaysia in a thrilling semi-final, and then got better of Pakistan in the next match. That’s why the 1975 World Cup win is considered the hallmark of Indian hockey. That was the best thing that happened to us.
The win generated great euphoria across the country. We got love and affection from every corner of the country, from Kerala to Punjab. In those days, you could hear only commentary on the radio. We had a match with the film stars in Bombay. The girls and boys of that era never forget that World Cup, and what I did. That nostalgia is still alive.
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Updated Date: Nov 30, 2018 20:34:02 IST