From Gloom to Glory - by Mir Ranjan Negi

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Section 1 - 1982 Asiad

Indo-Pak Final

Twenty five years have passed since that incident - a quarter century. Even today, the failure of the Japanese umpire who committed such a monumental blunder is a mystery to me.

The dejected Indian team did not recover from this blow.
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ndia launched the first attack through star forward Syed Ali, leading to a penalty stroke. Captain Zafar Iqbal made no mistake with the fourth minute goal (1-0). It was like a flash of lightning across the sky. There was a great uproar and applause from the stands.

The joy of an early lead was short-lived, as Kalimullah equalised just 10 minutes later (1-1). Suddenly the Indian defence started cracking. The gaps between the deep defenders and half line expanded; the cohesion of the forward line seemed to have disintegrated. Watching all this under the bar, I wondered whether this was the real Indian team playing or some impostors.

Right-winger Kalimullah of Pakistan dodged past two defenders and crossed the ball into the centre of the strking circle. Hanif Khan came out of nowhere and connected from three feet away from me, the ball streaking into the roof of the net. The shot was so fast and angular that I could not even see the ball striking the net (1-2).

Then a long scoop from Pakistani player Samiullah beat the entire Indian defence and headed towards the goal, with only Hassan Sardar and the bouncing ball in front of me at the top of the D. In one motion Hassan lifted the ball over my head, like in football, into the goal. This is not allowed; it was a clear infringement. To my utter shock, the goal was allowed (1-3).

As a goalkeeper going for the ball, for one split second I had the golden opportunity of hitting Hassan Sardar and pretending it was just an accident. But my instinctive sportsman spirit prevailed; I did not take this extreme step. Twenty five years have passed since that incident - a quarter century. Even today, the failure of the Japanese umpire who overlooked the foul and committed such a monumental blunder in a crucial game, remains a mystery to me. The dejected Indian team did not recover from this blow.

The result at the breather was India one, Pakistan three. I was sure about getting replaced after getting beaten thrice in one half. But surprisingly the substitution did not take place. Coach Balbir Singh Sr. addressed the Indian team at halftime. He looked in my direction, did not say anything and continued his sermon: "Nothing has happened, do not worry. We will win. Come on everybody ..."

Just after halftime, Manzoor Jr. came straight at me after beating the entire defence. All alone in the D, I rushed forward to take him on top of the D, attempting to cover the angle. But in one swift motion, Manzoor Jr. pushed the ball to the corner of the net. I had stopped such shots a number of times in my career; but this was just not my day (1-4).

Hanif got the fifth goal (1-5) and then Pakistan was gifted with a penalty stroke. I knew Kalimullah would push to my left, so after taking position I decided to feint a little to my right and then dive to my left. I saw the ball coming to my left but it zipped past me into the goal. I had moved too slowly to block the stroke (1-6).

Then Manzoor Sr. converted a penalty corner to conclude the worst loss in the history of the Indian team (1-7). The ignominy of the defeat was magnified on national television, in front of a huge home crowd; the fans in the stands were shocked into silence.

After the Asiad '82 hockey horror, one of players told me about a telephone call received during halftime of the final. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was to be the chief guest at the men's hockey final. With India down 1-3 and the Pakistani forwards in form, the Prime Minister called up Rajiv Gandhi, who was in charge of the Asian Games along with Buta Singh, and told him to get the goalkeeper changed. She then sent one of her ADCs to Balbir Singh to convey her message. The team management was so frightened, that it became paralysed and could not take any decision.

Whatever be the truth of this story, my fate was sealed. India lost the Asian Games final 1-7, and I was branded a traitor who had deliberately betrayed the team and the nation.


Photo from the 1982 Asiad final, courtesy Ashok Vahie