festival of football marred by over-age players
Singh is a
'The Indians, fighting furiously to rederess the balance, were held in check by the cool authority of Pakistan's centre half Anwar Ahmed Khan. Neither defence gave much away and, when the final whistle was blown, Pakistan's moment of glory had arrived'
By Gul Hameed Bhatti
Pakistan finally struck gold at the Olympic Games, when they defeated arch-rivals India in the final of the hockey competition at Rome in 1960 by the barest of margins, and the national captain Abdul Hameed 'Hameedi' stood at the top of the podium as he and his team wore the gold medals around their necks and received the cheers of the crowd. Pakistan had not just won a medal of the highest denomination at the Olympiad, they had also ended the domination of India who had won the gold medal in every one of the six previous Olympic Games, starting with Amsterdam in 1928.
The fact that other teams, especially India's nearest neighbours Pakistan, had been fast catching up with them had become evident at the 1956 Olympic Games staged in Melbourne. After having finished at a creditable fourth position in their first two appearances at this level -- at London 1948 and Helsinki 1952 -- Pakistan had reached the hockey final in 1956. There they met India and lost only by a 1-0 margin, as their opponents continued with their gold medal winning habit.
And it was not just the hockey gold that Pakistan picked up at Rome in 1960. One of their seven wrestlers at the event, welterweight Mohammad Bashir, claimed a third place and a bronze medal in his particular competition. Almost half a century later, Bashir remains one of only two Pakistanis to have claimed an individual medal at the Olympic Games, the other one being boxer Syed Hussain Shah with a bronze at the Seoul event in 1988.
Here's what the noted hockey journalist Sydney Friskin wrote in his book "Going for Gold Pakistan at Hockey" about the 1960 triumph at Rome: "And so all roads led to Rome, the Eternal City, the venue for the 1960 Olympic Games where the seat of power in hockey was destined to undergo a dramatic change. The sixteen teams were divided into four pools and Pakistan had nothing to fear from the opposition provided by Australia, Japan and Poland.
"This format allowed the winners and runners-up in each pool to qualify for the quarter-finals. A levelling of standards was evidenced by the fact that all four quarter-final winners emerged with single-goal victory margins, India, Great Britain, Pakistan and Spain all going through.
"The semifinals, too, were all closely fought with both Pakistan and India achieving 1-0 victories, Pakistan over Spain and India against Great Britain. The nervous tension which gripped the final four years earlier at Melbourne disappeared as both sides launched themselves into a full scale attack. After twelve minutes of eager striving, the tactical genius of Abdul Hameed came to light as he slipped a pass to his outside right Noor Alam whose cross pass was picked up at the top of the circle by the inside left Naseer Bunda. His deft flick, exquisitely timed, sent the ball flashing into the net.
"The Indians, fighting furiously to rederess the balance, were held in check by the cool authority of Pakistan's centre half Anwar Ahmed Khan. Neither defence gave much away and, when the final whistle was blown, Pakistan's moment of glory had arrived. The captain Abdul Hameed was soon on the victory stand acknowledging the plaudits of the crowd."
It had taken Pakistan four Olympic Games before it finally won the hockey gold medal. Naseer Bunda took Noor Alam's cross neatly just inside the circle. Prithipal Singh was beaten by Naseer's dribble and Jhaman Lal did not back up. Naseer side-stepped a charging Shankar Lakshman, and flicked past the helpless keeper into the goal.
Pakistan won the final 1-0, ending India's 32-year unbeaten streak in the Olympics. That marked the beginning of the end of India's supremacy in world hockey.
INDIA FINALLY MEET
From Amsterdam to Melbourne, India won the Olympic hockey tournament six times running. Their aggregate record over this period was 30 wins and no losses, with a goal tally of 197 for and eight against.
But at the Rome Games, they finally came up against a team that could match them. Even more gallingly, that team was Pakistan, their bitterest rivals. Pakistan had sneaked through their quarter-final against Germany in bizarre circumstances. The score was 1-1 with a few minutes to go, but then Gunther Ullerich blocked a shot with his hand, and the referee called for a 'bully', or face-off.
The rules said that two players must stand over the ball and touch sticks three times before playing it. But Ullerich only touched twice. And when the bully was repeated he committed the same error. The referee then awarded a penalty goal to Pakistan, which settled the match. Naseer Bunda scored the decisive goal!
The final was another close game, in which Bunda scored the only goal. As the historian David Wallechinsky writes, "the loss to Pakistan was considered a national tragedy (for India), and [successful] plans were immediately made to regain the Olympic title in Tokyo".
India did wrest back the gold medal at the 1964 Olympiad in Tokyo before Pakistan triumphed again at Mexico four years later. India's reign in Olympic Games hockey appeared to have finally ended.
Pakistan captain Abdul Hameed played in his fourth and last Olympiad. He was skipper also when Pakistan took silver at Melbourne. In between the two Olympics, he had earned his country a gold medal -- after the final against India -- when hockey was introduced at the Tokyo Asian Games in 1958.
The Pakistan hockey team at Rome comprised Abdul Hameed (captain), Chaudhry Ghulam Rasool (vice-captain), Abdul Rashid, A R Gardner, Habib Ali Kiddie, Manzoor Hussain Atif, Munir Dar, Anwar Ahmed Khan, Noor Alam, Naseer Bunda, Mutiullah, Khawaja Zakauddin, Mushtaq Ahmed, Khurshid Aslam, Bashir Ahmed, Zafar Hayat, Zafar Ali Khan and Abdul Waheed.
Pakistan's hockey captain at London 1948 Ali Iqtidar Shah Dara was the team manager, after having served as coach at Melbourne 1956. Mohammad Niaz Khan, captain at Helsinki 1952, was assistant manager. So the team at Rome was in good hands, considering the status of the players as well as the side's management.
MAKES HIS MARK
After having won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Asian Games in 1958, wrestler Mohammad Bashir competed against the world's best at the Rome Olympiad. Of his seven bouts in the welterweight class, he won four. In the final round, he was beaten by both contestants who finished ahead of him, Turkey's Ismail Ogan who took silver and the United States' Douglas Blubaugh who earned the gold medal.
Bashir was one of Pakistan's most celebrated wrestlers in their history. He won three gold medals in the Commonwealth Games -- as did Mohammad Akhtar and Faiz Mohammad also -- and picked up another gold at the Asian Games in Bangkok in 1966.
Akhtar competed in the featherweight event at the Rome Olympics. He did quite well too, eventually being beaten by Turkey's Mustafa Dagistanli in the fifth round, his opponent going on to win the gold medal. Akhtar finally finished at a creditable number six in a group of 25 wrestlers.
Among the 49-strong Pakistan squad at Rome, there were 12 athletes. As compared to their display in Melbourne four years earlier, they performed pathetically. Sprinter Abdul Khaliq was just a shadow of his former self, although he had done very well around the world in various international meets since 1956.
Hurdler Ghulam Raziq continued to improve with every race that he ran in the 110 metres event. He returned a time of 14.3 seconds in the semifinals but couldn't make the final. Hammer thrower Mohammad Iqbal, after taking gold in the 1958 Asian Games and a silver in the Comonwealth Games at Cardiff the same year, managed to enter the finals at Rome but finished 12th out of the 15 participants.
One of the worst shows was put up by long distance runner Mubarak Shah in his only Olympiad appearance. For someone who was to take three gold medals at the Asian Games, Mubarak lagged way behind everyone else in his two races at Rome.
Pakistan were represented in seven sports in 1960. Boxing, cycling, shooting and weightlifting brought no joy as usual, but the swimmers were spared further agony as none was chosen for the Rome Olympiad. A gold and a bronze medal was, incidentally, Pakistan's best performance ever in a single Olympic Games!
BAREFOOT BIKILA FIRST BLACK AFRICAN OLYMPIC CHAMPION
Fifty-four years after Italy had to give up hosting the Olympics, Rome finally got its chance. They made the most of their dramatic history, holding the wrestling competition in the Basilica of Maxentius. Among the other ancient sites that were used were the Caracalla Baths (gymnastics) and the Arch of Constantine (finish of the marathon).
Paul Elvstrom of Denmark won the gold medal in the single-handed dinghy class yachting -- for the fourth consecutive time. Hungarian fencer Aladar Gerevich earned his sixth consecutive gold medal in the team sabre event.
In canoeing, Sweden's Gert Fredriksson won his sixth gold medal. Yugoslavia, which qualified for the final by winning a coin toss, won the football tournament after losing in the final three times in a row. Sante Gaiardoni of Italy became the only cyclist in Olympic history to win both the time trial and the match sprint events. By winning the silver medal in light-welterweight boxing, Clement "Ike" Quartey of Ghana became the first black African Olympic medallist. Five days later in the marathon, Abebe Bikila, running barefoot, outlasted Rhadi Ben Abdesselem of Morocco to become the first black African Olympic champion.
Rafer Johnson and C K Yang were decathlon training partners at UCLA, but in Rome Johnson represented the United States and Yang represented Chinese Taipei. In a dramatic finish, they took first and second places and then, exhausted, fell against each other for support.
Suffering from concussion and a broken collarbone after a fall in the endurance test of the three-day equestrian event, Bill Roycroft left his hospital bed to compete in the jumping test and ensure the gold medal for Australia.
ERUPTION OF MOUNT
VESUVIUS DELAYS MATTERS
The 1960 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XVII Olympiad, were celebrated in 1960 in Rome, Italy. Rome had been awarded the organisation of the 1908 Summer Olympics, but, after the 1906 eruption of Mount Vesuvius, had to decline and pass the honours to London. In 1955, the city beat out Lausanne, Detroit, Budapest, Brussels, Mexico City and Tokyo for the rights to the Games.
The future Constantine II, King of Greece, won his country a gold in sailing Dragon Class. Wilma Rudolph, a former polio patient, won three gold medals in sprint events on the track. Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, won boxing's light-heavyweight gold medal.
South Africa appeared in the Olympic arena for the last time under the apartheid regime. They would not be allowed to return until 1992, after the abandonment of apartheid and during the transition to majority rule.
A total of 84 nations participated at the Rome Games. Athletes from Morocco, San Marino, Sudan and Tunisia competed at the Olympic Games for the first time. Suriname also made its first Olympic appearance, but its lone athlete withdrew from competition, leaving a total of 83 nations that actually competed.
Athletes from Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago would represent the new West Indies Federation, but this nation would only exist for this single Olympiad. Athletes from East Germany and West Germany would compete as the United Team of Germany from 1956-1964.
The total of athletes participating was 5,338 -- 4,727 men and 611 women -- and there were 150 events in 17 sports.
Soviet Union (USSR) again headed the medals table with a tally of 103, that comprised 43 gold, 29 silver and 31 bronze. United States were second with a total of 71 (34-21-16) and hosts Italy third with 36 (13-10-13).
Among the top 10 nations, the others were: Germany 42 (12-19-11), Australia 22 (8-8-6), Turkey 9 (7-2-0), Hungary 21 (6-8-7), Japan 18 (4-7-7), Poland 21 (4-6-11) and Czechoslovakia 8 (3-2-3).
NEXT WEEK: Pakistan at 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo
writer is Group Editor Sports of 'The News'
PAKISTAN AT 1960 OLYMPIC GAMES: ALL RESULTS
100 metres: Heat 2 Abdul Khaliq 11.2sec 7th out of 7. Heat 7 Iftikhar Shah retired
200 metres: Heat 1 Iftikhar Shah non-starter. Heat 4 Abdul Khaliq 23.1sec 6th out of 6
5,000 metres: Heat 4 Mubarak Shah 15:43.0min 12th out of 13
4x100 metres relay: Pakistan (Abdul Malik/Ramzan Ali/Ghulam Raziq/Abdul Khaliq) 42.5sec 3rd out of 3. Second semifinal Pakistan 42.8sec 6th out of 6
110 metres hurdles: Heat 4 Ghulam Raziq 14.6sec 3rd out of 6. Heat 5 Abdul Malik 15.4sec 6th out of 6. Second quarter-final Ghulam Raziq 14.4sec 3rd out of 6. Second semifinal Ghulam Raziq 14.3sec 4th out of 5
400 metres hurdles: Heat 3 Mohammad Yaqub 52.8sec 5th out of 6
3,000 metres steeplechase: Heat 2 Mubarak Shah 9:20.0min 9th out of 10
Long jump: Qualification 3rd series Ramzan Ali failed to record a jump
Hop, step and jump: Qualification 3rd series Mohammad Khan 14.43m failed to qualify for final
Pole vault: Qualification Allah Ditta 4.00m failed to qualify for final
Putting the shot: Qualification Haider Khan 16.47m failed to qualify for final
Throwing the hammer: Qualification Mohammad Iqbal 60.86m qualified for the final. Final Mohammad Iqbal 61.79m 12th out of 15
Throwing the discus: Qualification Haider Khan 46.57m failed to qualify for final
Throwing the javelin: Qualification 2nd series Mohammad Nawaz 70.05m failed to qualify for final
Bantamweight (up to 54kg): Round 1 thirtyseconds of final bye. Round 2 sixteenths of final Mohammad Nasir beat S Akbarzadeh (Iran) on points. Round 3 eights of final lost to M Thein (Burma) on points
Lightweight (up to 60kg): Round 1 thirtyseconds of final bye. Round 2 sixteenths of final Ghulam Sarwar lost to A Hernandez (Mexico) on points
Middleweight (up to 75kg): Round 1 sixteenths of final Sultan Mahmood lost to T Walasek (Poland) on points
Light Heavyweight (up to 81kg): Round 1 sixteenths of final bye. Round 2 eights of final Mohammad Safdar lost to G Saraudi (Italy) on points
Individual scratch sprint: Heat 7 Mohammad Ashiq 3rd out of 3. Heat 8 A R Baloch 3rd out of 3. Repechages 4th A R Baloch lost to H Francis (USA). 5th Mohammad Ashiq lost to L Mucino (Mexico)
Tandem sprint: Heat 2 Mohammad Ashiq/A R Baloch not present
1,000 metres standing start time trial: Mohammad Ashiq 1:20.17min 25th out of 25
Elimination rounds Round B: Pakistan beat Australia 3-0 (half-time 0-0), beat Poland 8-0 (h-t 4-0), beat Japan 10-0 (h-t 4-0). Pakistan topped Round B 3 played, 3 won, GF 21, GA 0, points 6. Quarter-finals Pakistan beat Germany 2-1 (h-t 1-0). Semifinals Pakistan beat Spain 1-0 (h-t 1-0). Final Pakistan beat India 1-0 (h-t 1-0). Pakistan won the gold medal
Bantamweight (57kg): Mohammad Azam Mian total 182.5kg unplaced
Lightweight (67.5kg): Abdul Ghani Butt total 217.5kg unplaced
Free rifle (300 metres): Elimination rounds Group One Aziz Wains score 487 19th out of 20. Final Aziz Wains not present
Free pistol (50 metres): Elimination rounds Group One M Zafar Ahmed score 289 31st out of 33
Small bore rifle (prone position): Elimination rounds Group One Saifi Chaudhry score 373 39th out of 43
Small bore rifle (three positions): Elimination rounds Group Two Saifi Chaudhry score 506 34th out of 38. Aziz Wains not present
Pistol rapid fire shooting at silhouette (25 metres): Mohammad Iqbal score 501 55th out of 57
Flyweight (52kg): 1st round Nawab Din beat S O'Connor (Ireland) by fall, 2nd round beat V Dimitrov (Bulgaria) on points, 3rd round lost to M Matsubara (Japan) by fall, 4th round lost to A Bilek (Turkey) by fall. Nawab Din ranked 9th out of 17
Bantamweight (57kg): 1st round Siraj Din beat W Pilling (Great Britain) by fall, 2nd round lost to T Jaskari (Finland) on points, 3rd round lost to M Shakhov (USSR) on points. Siraj Din ranked joint 10th out of 19
Featherweight (62kg): 1st round Mohammad Akhtar beat M Kederi (Afghanistan) by fall, 2nd round lost to T Sato (Japan) on points, 3rd round beat I Zurawski (Poland) on points, 4th round beat V Rubashvili (USSR) on points, 5th round lost to M Dagistanli (Turkey) by fall. Mohammad Akhtar ranked 6th out of 25
Lightweight (67kg): 1st round Mohammad Din lost to M Tajiki (Iran) by fall, 2nd round beat N Stamulis (Australia) on points, 3rd round beat R Bielle (France) on points. Mohammad Din ranked joint 12th out of 24
Welterweight (73kg): 1st round Mohammad Bashir beat P Amey (Great Britain) by fall, 2nd round beat I Rolon (Argentine) on points, 3rd round lost to G Habibi (Iran) on points, 4th round beat K Bruggmann (Switzerland) by fall, 5th round beat G De Vescovi (Italy) on points, final round bout 1 lost to I Ogan (Turkey) on points, final round bout 3 lost to D Blubaugh (USA) by fall. Mohammad Bashir ranked 3rd out of 23 and won the bronze medal
Middleweight (79kg): 1st round Faiz Mohammad admitted to subsequent round, 2nd round lost to T Nagai (Japan) on points, 3rd round beat M A Khokan (Afghanistan) on points. Faiz Mohammad ranked 11th out of 19
Heavyweight (over 87kg): 1st round Mohammad Nazir lost to L Djiber (Bulgaria) by fall, 2nd round beat N Subhani (Afghanistan) on points, 3rd round lost to H Kaplan (Turkey) by fall. Mohammad Nazir ranked 12th out of 17
WON A GOLD AND A BRONZE MEDAL
'Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall'
The vibrant and living days of hockey are long gone. The glorious past is now an eyewash. The celebrity status of our shining team when most members occupied centrestage in the collective attention of the fans has evaporated. Fostering excellence and the aim to make hockey a game for everyone is visibly omitted.
Intellectual poverty to uphold hockey as a specialised subject is on the rise. The turbulent hockey landscape is reflecting blistering and sweltering expectations. The best practices document is no more.
The Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) is lacking the core vision statement to encourage, promote, develop and administer hockey at all levels in order to maintain Pakistan hockey as a world leader and a game for everyone. The PHF envelopes a hopeless setup and makes a mountain of a molehill.
It shows that even after a long time, we have miserably failed to abide by professional norms that preclude abuse of arbitrary history. It is high time to restructure the organisation in general and revamp the individuals in particular.
An organisational paradigm shift is the need of the hour. The PHF policy document is a vivacious one that determines the future direction of the hockey and measures the present, provided there is a respect for the document. The million dollar question flickers: Is the PHF ready to deliver?
Hockey is the national game of Pakistan but it rarely seems to stir any chords of interest with the general public. It seems to have lost all its charisma and charm of bygone days. What baffles one is that the professional and unconditional commitment of PHF is incredulously lost and no visible conscious efforts are made to turn the table up. The rigorous training and development programs to uplift and uphold the international hockey standards are not found in the culture of Pakistan Hockey. Famine of leadership has become the hallmark of our national sports.
The captain is the man who makes a difference and we are unable to produce a consistent captain who can run the team as a leader in a real professional stance -- a competent skipper who can deliver like a captain and share technical hockey skills; like dribbling and elimination, delivering and distributing the ball, receiving and controlling the ball, tackling and dispossessions, other techniques, significance of physical fitness, importance of discipline etc and above all a leading ability.
A strong captain with all the above capabilities can emerge as a winner. This is PHF's responsibility to pronounce the vision for hockey and its strategic direction. The undisputed champs had won the World Hockey Cup in four of 11 attempts, the Champions Trophy three times and the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup on different occasions (pardon me if any statistics are missed -- the idea is to highlight the Pakistan hockey team as the champion of the champions once upon a time).
Not only this, Pakistan won three gold, three silver and two bronze medals for field hockey in the Olympics. Pakistan hockey achieved its pinnacle in the mid 1980s but since then it has slipped downhill. As things stand at the present, the national team holds no major title.
Historians and general public are bewildered as day by day the PHF is wangling with unnecessary performance decline and agonising depression and has failed to undo the defeats of performers. What are the reasons for the decline? To start with, apparently no vision and no mission statement are available to give the strategic direction to the team.
The Pakistan Hockey Federation is run by unprofessional individuals. Decision makers are not equipped with the technical know-how of the modern game. Seemingly, funds are not utilised appropriately. The PHF is lacking visionary leadership that holds the sinking ship. How laborious.
Pakistani hockey officials lack all the necessary training required to guide the talent in the right direction. Hockey is no longer a part-time game but a sport that requires total and unconditional commitment both inside and outside the ground. It requires years of planning and use of state of the art equipment to train the players. Our hockey federation cannot comprehend the requirements of the modern-day game.
Witnessing another major problem in the arena of hockey in Pakistan is the lack of good quality Astroturf (a champion sports surface) pitches. Access to such grounds is not possible for many players at the local level. If the players are unable to play frequently on Astroturf then I am afraid they won't be able to deliver in international events.
Measuring the need of such grounds is a significant task and that should be done on a regular basis. To find and deploy able trainers on an Astroturf surface is the key requirement. In Pakistan most of the pros use synthetic surfaces once their technique of playing on our uneven grounds has already matured.
Hockey has also been fading from our TV screens. This problem is evident in Pakistan where a responsible media should actively promote healthy activities and the country's national sport.
Jamie Stewart, Managing Director, Commune, FIH, says "I think hockey has the stars. And potentially the marketers have to position the next generation of hockey stars in an attractive fashion. We need to build those stars. But those stars will be treated out of success. So the most important thing is to get the structures in place, the programmes in.
"Let's face it -- this is not going to happen tomorrow. It's not like putting band-aid on a sore. The whole architecture of the way the sport is run and administered needs to be re-constructed."
With hockey no longer a priority sport in the government list, the indifference of the sponsors and the media could really hit hard. This was a time not long ago when flying horse Samiullah was the darling of the press. Now you would struggle to find people who can name the Pakistani hockey captain.
The future of field hockey in Pakistan is bleak. Bold efforts are needed by those who are in charge of the game. If we want our younger generation to indulge in this beautiful game we have to carve out our game plan very carefully. We should maintain the winner profile and regain the lost glory.
It is worth mentioning here that 12th Men's Hockey World Cup will be staged at New Delhi in India. The fortnight-long gala will in principle be held in February 2010 at the Major Dhyan Chand National Hockey Stadium wherein the world's top 12 nations will take part. The Hockey World Cup was first held in Barcelona, Spain, in 1971, when Pakistan won the title.
A piece of advice to Pakistan Hockey Federation and the Government of Pakistan:
"Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall."
Best of luck for the series of upcoming events like the long drawn out European tour and then the mighty event of the Beijing Olympics. Let's move with wisdom and make things happen!
writer works for the telecom sector in a senior management position and
is a social contributor
The AFC should also come out of its dream world and stick to the realities as in actual sense the future of the players and the team officials depends mostly on the outcome of the results in the festival
By Alam Zeb Safi
It was amazing to see the young footballers of eight countries of the South West Asian belt showing their skills in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-14 festival of football, held at the picturesque Shahid Bahonar Sports and Education Complex in Tehran (Iran) from May 18 to 22.
In the five-day affair hosts Iran, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives fielded their kids to get international experience at this young age. This festival, the third of its kind at the Under-14 level, was aimed not only to provide an opportunity to the young footballers of the participating countries to get international exposure but it also served to bring different cultures close to each other.
Though, as per AFC rules, the results of the matches did not count much as the officials believed that it was just a festival and the young footballers should be allowed to enjoy the game and show what skills they possess.
As per unofficial results of the festival hosts Iran stood first, followed by Nepal, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka. Each country had to field their two teams and as per rules no replacement was allowed unless a player received a grievous injury.
But the writer observed that the festival did not meet, in the actual sense, its objectives because of the flaws and irregularities which marred the five-day affair.
What looked quite disturbing was the fact that most of the teams had fielded apparently over-age players. For instance, most of the players of Iran, Nepal and even India looked over-age as not only some of the boys of these outfits had stout physique, their heights also looked amazing.
The writer observed that most of the boys of the said countries used to score while connecting the ball from the midfield quite ferociously. Some team officials, during the festival, also pointed out to the AFC officials around 50 players of Nepal, Iran and India after suspecting them to be over-age. One wondered how a boy of Under-14 could play football in such a dominant fashion.
The footballers of Bhutan, Pakistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan though looked genuinely Under-14, that is why their performance also looked ordinary as the boys of these countries were unable to cope with the manly approach of the teams using over-age players.
But what the writer observed was that the entry of over-age players was natural because the AFC had no such rules and arrangements which could stop the over-age players from playing in the festival. The AFC, before the festival, had advised the concerned football federations of the participating countries to conduct the age verification (MRI) tests of all those players who were going to participate in the festival in Tehran. If any player was found over-age the concerned federation will have to face a fine, the AFC had informed.
The team officials of the participating eight countries also claimed during the competitions that their respective federations had conducted the MRI tests before the boys were sent to the festival. But the ground realities looked otherwise.
One of the drawbacks in the AFC rules for the festival was that no MRI tests results were received from any team before the festival. The AFC Acting Director Grassroots and Youth Department John Whittle told the writer during the festival that they have received only the passports and form-B of the boys from the management of the participating teams, and not the results of the MRI tests.
"We don't receive MRI tests results as passport and form-B are sufficient to verify the age of the boys," John Whittle said. It proves that the AFC did not have any plan to obstruct the entry of over-age boys during the festival. Moreover, no team official had the right to protest against any apparently over-age player, but they could only point out the said players to the AFC authorities serving on the occasion.
Though the AFC have rules that the apparently over-age looking players during the festival would be kept on the hit list, and efforts would be made to obstruct their entry to the Under-16 competitions which are likely to be held next year. But the policy does not look sound.
Had the AFC stopped the entry of the over-age boys before the festival by receiving MRI test results from the federations, or had conducted the tests of the doubtful players on the spot, it would have given chances to the genuine Under-14 boys who were left behind because of the entry of some seasoned, but illegal campaigners into the teams.
Moreover, in the festival, some teams, like Nepal in particular, tried to deceive the opposition y fielding some of the players in both halves of the match. Though, in the first round, the matches were of 30 minutes duration and it looked quite difficult to adopt the deceptive policy, but in the last round, in which the matches were of 60 minutes duration, the writer saw that the Nepal management was working illegally.
The writer also pointed out to the AFC authorities about all these irregularities which were happening, but because they did not have a policy in hand to take action against the management of the concerned team, so they did not take any prompt action and seemed even less serious about the dramatic happenings on the field.
Moreover, the AFC treat the festival as a mere celebration and don't believe in a points system and the results, but keeping in view the competitive interest of the participating nations, the responsible body should change its policy and convert the festival into a competitive exercise. Because the writer saw that all the participating teams were taking great interest in it and even the results of the matches were often discussed in the hostel.
Keeping in view the zeal of the participating countries, the AFC should also come out of its dream world and stick to the realities as in actual sense the future of the players and the team officials depends mostly on the outcome of the results in the festival.
In brief, if the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) really wants to promote football at the grassroots level, it should try to remove the aforesaid flaws from the festivals as an immediate priority otherwise, some of the nations who are less influential in the football circuit in Asia will be the only sufferers.
writer is a staff member of 'The News' based at Karachi
Singh is a
born leader as cricket gets a new look
The IPL has also proved that this form of the game is not suitable for the older guys as it requires strong nerves, a fresh pair of legs with lots of aggression and an attacking approach
By Muhammad Akram Chohan
With the start of the new millennium, a player from India had stepped into the international cricket arena, who was no other than Yuvraj Singh. Before his emergence in world cricket, there were already quite a few big names that were shining very brightly in the Indian batting arsenal in which the quartet of Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman was prominent.
To get a place in the middle order batting, in presence of the above mentioned monarchs of Indian cricket history, was never an easy task.
In spite of this very fact that he was given opportunities with frequent intervals in that particular period, he never lost heart and kept trying to cement his place with great dedication and hard work.
During this journey, due to his arrogant and aggressive mindset and approach while he was not selected for national duty, he felt the treatment which was meted out to him was really disgusting and uncalled for as in his opinion he was treated really badly, as far as his inclusion in the team was concerned during the said period.
He was not a very happy man those days with the team management especially and this was the prime reason that his relations with the then Indian captain Sourav Ganguly became sour which were felt very clearly during some of the matches when he gave a lukewarm response to the advice of his skipper, who is quite like him as far as the nature of the two is concerned.
Timely intervention from teammate Harbhajan Singh, who was very close to Yuvraj at that time, had reduced the intensity of the matter thus stopping the situation from going out of control.
Harbhajan Singh was also having close ties with Sourav Ganguly but it is also a matter of fact that Ganguly and Yuvraj could never become good pals afterwards.
Yuvraj Singh, who is a son of former Indian cricketer Yograj Singh, hails from Chandigarh and is the youngest and least experienced as captain among the other competing teams' leaders in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Due to his stubbornness and aggressive nature, it was feared in the beginning of the IPL event that the boys under his leadership would not be able to perform up to their potential.
This theory looked correct in the initial matches which the Kings XI Punjab played under his captaincy in the IPL, but Yuvraj Singh who is famous for his undying fighting approach, has introduced enthusiasm and fighting spirit in his young side that's why his team has emerged victorious in IPL matches on numerous occasions in the mega event defeating their opponents with their attacking style of playing the game. And they earned the right to be in the semifinals.
Yuvraj Singh who with Mahendra Singh Dhoni is regarded as the pillar and backbone of Indian cricket for the future, has not been very prominent with his personal performances during the event.
The reason for this lacklustre and poor showing is that he has remained out of action due to injury problems in recent times but who knows when he will get his rhythm and form back and starts producing his famous magnificent style of batting.
It is certain that in the years to come, he will be one of the most important and essential parts of the Indian team set up.
The Indian cricket team, which was always lacking in their approach towards the game of cricket is concerned as they were vulnerable to stronger outfits in the past, is now demonstrating a completely different style of play.
Their ability to overcome their opponents in close matches was always in question and remained dubious till the arrival of the current younger lot.
The emergence of players like Dhoni and Yuvraj has changed the whole scenario for the better and now it is a completely different story altogether.
Yuvraj Singh, while displaying his excellent leadership qualities in the IPL, can become a real threat to Dhoni's captaincy in the future when the Indian team will not be having the services of the old horses like Ganguly, Tendulkar, Dravid, Kumble and Laxman.
On the other hand, the glorious and professional way in which the BCCI has organised the IPL has more or less convinced the world cricket fraternity that the Indian cricket board is capable of organising a mega event like the IPL in a befitting manner all on their own.
They have a team of professionals with a thirst to make a name for their country and that's why they have worked day and night and with extreme dedication tirelessly just to give the message to the cricketing world loud and clear that they are no less talented or hard working in comparison to countries like England, Australia and South Africa.
Indian cricket has gained a lot by organising the IPL as their bunch of talented youngsters is now having the dream opportunity to play with their idols thus preparing themselves for the rigours of the game in a very competitive environment.
This practice will provide the Indian cricket team fresh blood with great skills whenever the need arises.
The financial benefit which the BCCI is attaining through IPL is really mind blowing. The IPL has also proved that this form of the game is not suitable for the older guys as it requires strong nerves, a fresh pair of legs with lots of aggression and an attacking approach.
All of these above mentioned qualities have diminished with the passage of time in the majority of aged players as they had to face the daunting task of coming up to the expectations of an entire nation in their careers on countless occasions.
Especially in a country like India where cricket is almost a religion and the expectations coming from the masses on some occasions have been really unrealistic.
This is the prime reason that this level of high hopes has affected the performance level of senior batting maestros of the Indian team really badly as all of them, in spite of the fact that they are captaining their respective outfits, have failed miserably thus giving credibility to this theory that Twenty20 cricket is really competitive and, due to their growing ages, they are more suitable for Test cricket only.
In their failure of delivering when it matters the most one thing which is very clear is that they lack enthusiasm, an attacking style of play, strong nerves and ability to settle in the middle quickly to score runs at their will which is in fact the real beauty of this form of the game.
Sachin Tendulkar was also having some fears about his own ability to perform in this shortest version of the game and that's why he had delayed his participation in IPL just to ascertain the whole situation.
Some months back when the Indian selectors were finalising the squad for the inaugural edition of the Twenty20 World Cup, Tendulkar had given the suggestion to BCCI not to consider him and also other senior batsmen for the competition as he was of the view that they are not suitable for this form of the game due to their growing ages.
His fears have become hard facts as his age group's people especially the Indians in the batting department are finding it difficult to cope with the pressure linked with this mega event.