Hockey World Cup Memories: Pakistan legend Hassan Sardar revisits the high of winning 1982 edition in Mumbai
Pakistan's legendary centre-forward Hassan Sardar remembers the triumph at 1982 World Cup and believes he would have scored heavily in the modern game as well.
Hassan Sardar was part of the 1982 Pakistan team that won the Asian Games and World Cup. Considered among the best centre-forwards that Pakistan ever produced, Sardar is also an Olympic gold medallist (1984). A former Pakistan captain and chief selector, he is currently the manager of Pakistan hockey team. He spoke to Shantanu Srivastava.
Winning the 1982 World Cup in Bombay was one of the highlights of my career. We had a very strong team back then, and our forward line was easily among the best in the world. I was fortunate to play with some of the legends of Pakistani hockey like Samiullah Khan, Manzoor Hussain, Kaleemullah Khan, Abdul Rashid, Hanif Khan, among others. Akhtar Rasool was our captain, and it was a great team, skill-wise.
We had prepared well for this event. Before every major tournament, such as the World Cup or the Olympics, we used to go on a 50- or 60-day European tour. We did the same in 1982. Upon returning, we had a four to six-week camp where we further improved our skills and fitness.
Given the team we had, we were quietly confident of winning the trophy. The bonding was excellent, and we knew if we play to our potential, we will win the Cup. Our biggest strength was our forwards, and I am extremely happy to be a part of that line. We believed in all-out attack; that was our style of play. We had a good defence too, but the focus was always on scoring goals, and mind you, we always went for field goals, not penalty corners.
We were pooled with West Germany, Poland, New Zealand, Argentina, and Spain. We had a good start, and we went past Argentina, Spain and New Zealand without many problems. West Germany was a strong team, but we beat them in the group stage 5-3. We went on to beat Netherlands 4-2 in the semis, while West Germany beat Australia in the other semi-final.
Since we had already beaten West Germany in the group stage, we were confident and we knew how to go about the task. We got a penalty corner in the match but the Germans protested, so we said we don’t need a penalty corner to score a goal. We ultimately won 3-1, with me, Manzoor Hussain, and Samiullah scoring. I ended the tournament with 11 goals, the highest in the team.
Given the style of hockey that teams play these days, I would love to be an active player again. If this kind of hockey was played back then, our forward line would have scored a lot more. The modern game has become faster, and a lot of things go in favour of strikers; for instance, there’s no off-side rule anymore. So yes, I would have fancied myself scoring many more goals.
The biggest difference between European and Asian styles of hockey has always been the pace, and I think the current Pakistan team lacks that. Europeans are fitter, hence faster. Among the Asian nations, I see only India matching those levels. They (India) reached the final of Champions Trophy this year where a lot of European nations participated, so that shows their progress.
Pakistan, on the other hand, need to work on their attack. Our forwards must look to score. Our defence is alright, but it’s the forward line that needs to fire if we have to go deep in the competition. The Asian Champions Trophy game against Japan is an example. They (Japan) had conceded so many goals to India in Asian Games, but against us, their defence stood up.
However, Pakistan have been improving off late, especially after the arrival of Roelant Oltmans. The goal difference against teams like India, Germany, and Belgium has come down, and if they can improve their attack, I think Pakistan can do well. I personally would have wanted Oltmans in our camp, but unfortunately, he had to leave.
Pakistan have a tough pool at this World Cup, and I think we will be targeting Malaysia and Germany to advance to the next stage. The last time Pakistan played in Bhubaneshwar was in 2014, and of course, there was the unfortunate incident between sections of crowds and some Pakistani players. I hope returning to that venue doesn’t put Pakistan under pressure. I am sure they will behave well, and the Indian crowds and media will appreciate their hockey.
India need a big win against Wales to have any chance of qualifying directly for the Hockey World Cup quarter-finals.
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