December 31, 2013

Anwar Ahmad Khan: Hockey’s greatest-ever centre-half


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Olympian Anwar Ahmad Khan has been acclaimed as the greatest-ever centre-half to be have set his feet in the hockey arena. He had been acknowledged as the best in the Indo-Pak sub-continent in the 1950s and he continued to rule the world for the better part of two decades. 

He was the architect of Pakistan’s most famous conquests. He was the pivot around whom the team revolved in its golden era. He played the lead role in winning gold medals for the country in three successive events. 

He had made his international debut during the 1956 Olympics at Melbourne where Pakistan made it to the final for the first time, as they had been eliminated in the semifinals on both the previous Olympic Games at London (1948) and Helsinki (1956). 

Anwar Ahmad Khan’s extraordinary skills, which he learned right from his early days in Bhopal, in the middle of the pitch contained the mighty Indian forwards in the 1958 Asian Games at Tokyo where Pakistan clinched the goal medal ahead of their arch-rivals, after having overwhelmed the obdurate Koreans by a huge margin which proved decisive in earning the first-ever trophy.

He played even bigger role in Pakistan’s sensational title triumph in the 1960 Olympic Games at Rome where they finally brought India down to earth. The momentum was sustained in the 1962 Asian Games at Jakarta where Pakistan clinched their third successive gold in the presence of their  traditional rivals, who had earlier been dominating the hockey world since 1928. 

Ahmad Khan was regarded as the greatest centre-half the world of hockey for being an impossibly-gifted all-round player who didn't let the opposition beat him. His inspirational brilliance is still remembered by his colleagues and contemporaries. 

According to Munir Dar, himself one of the greats of his era, Anwar Ahmad Khan’s anticipation was splendid and his stick work was brilliant. His stoppage was accurate and his distribution could not be intercepted. He used to move all the time with his forwards and whenever the inners were blocked he used to open the game through the wingers. 

He was credited to have played in his corridor and used to cover both the full backs whenever they were beaten. 

He used to deceive the opponents’ defence with his body while feeding his forwards. If he had to pass the ball to the inside-left on top of the circle, he used to move towards his right and after drawing the opposing right-back to cover the gap between the left-back and centre-half, he used to give a goal-labelled pass to his inside-left and similarly to his inside-right. 

He never lost his temper whenever any of his colleagues committed any mistake. He was rated as a great team man and penetrated packed defences with the help of his supporting half-backs. He was a treat to watch all along. 

He has often been described as the pillar on which the Pakistan hockey rested when they were in the process of transforming into a world beating unit. Many experts have rated him as the most valuable player that Pakistan had in 1950s and 1960s. 

Anwar Ahmad Khan was originally chosen vice-captain of the Pakistan squad for the 1964 Olympic Games at Tokyo but he had to lead the team in most of the matches which skipper Manzoor Hussain Atif had to miss because of injuries. Pakistan claimed silver medal at Tokyo. 

He had a remarkably successful international career. He was a member of the Pakistan outfit in three Olympic Games and two Asiads, in which three golds and two silvers were won, an incredible record 

He captained Pakistan in quite a few international matches with great success but his career was cut short due to petty politics and intrigues that plagued the national sport and deprived the country of more glories. 

Upon quitting the game, Anwar Ahmad Khan made history of sorts by bringing out his autobiography 'Anwar' in 1990. It was the first autobiography by a Pakistan hockey player. He later produced another book titled 'Hikayat-e-Hockey' which was published in 2002.

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December 30, 2013

Naya Nazimabad’s Lawai Stadium ready to stage first-class cricket


By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The magnificent Lawai Stadium, located in Naya Nazimabad, Karachi, seems to be having all the ingredients of becoming a world-class venue in future. No wonder it’s ready to host first-class cricket matches as well as limited overs games under floodlights. 

Mohammad Iqbal, Director Sports, Naya Nazimabad, has informed that they would shortly be writing to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to allocate them some matches during the upcoming 2014-15 cricket season. 

“Having acquired all the necessary equipments after developing a stadium of the highest class we are ready to host the matches of the national competitions. We would be writing to the PCB Chairman, Najam Sethi, to let us stage the matches in the coming season,” Iqbal, who headed the MCB Bank’s Sports Division with distinction for a number of years, revealed. 

“The Lawai Stadium houses dressing rooms besides dugouts for participating teams. We have third-umpire room as well as brand new sightscreens. We have got hold of auto roller as well as the auto grass cutting machine. We have re-laid our pitches having a lot of grassy stuff. The floodlights are already there. So we have adequate facilities to hold day games as well as day-nighters,” he remarked. 

“We are confident about the PCB including our stadium in its list of venues for national tournaments next season because we fulfill nearly every condition needed to host first-class games,” Iqbal, himself a former cricketer, added. 

The Lawai Stadium is an initiative of Arif Habib, one of the leading entrepreneurs of the country, who was instrumental in developing a cricket ground of international standard in Naya Nazimabad City, a 2,100-acre housing scheme in the northern area of Karachi. He is credited to have masterminded the development of the cricket stadium on a fast track, earning huge goodwill to the mega project. 

The picturesque cricket stadium has been named after Hussain Lawai, President, Summit Bank Limited, in recognition and honour of his support and passion for cricket. Besides being a seasoned banker, he has remained a great promoter of sports over the years. 

The Lawai Stadium is first thing one comes across after entering the main gate of the Naya Nazimabad project. 

With hills on one side and the Manghopir Lake on the other, the scheme is well guarded and gated. It’s just a few minutes drive from the Sakhi Hasan roundabout in North Nazimabad. 

The construction work in the housing scheme is in full flow, much to the delight and satisfaction of the allottees, and the developed cricket stadium has ensured plenty of life in the arena much before people start residing there upon the completion of the project by the end of 2015. 

The credit for turning Arif Habib’s dream of the Naya Nazimabad Lawai Stadium into reality goes to Mohammad Iqbal, whose expertise and skills for sports administration are well known. 

He had represented the organization in the various committees as well as the Council of the Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan (BCCP), now the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). 

The Naya Nazimabad Lawai Stadium has already hosted a major tournament recently in which Omar Cricket Club emerged triumphant in the final of the Peace Cup Twenty20 Cricket Tournament 2013 at as they overpowered Qasmi Cricket Club in the final.

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Nadeem Omar reckons Karachi can produce high-quality fast bowlers


By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Nadeem Omar, a Presidential candidate in the upcoming elections of the Karachi City Cricket Association (KCCA), has dispelled the impression that Karachi didn’t possess the capability to produce high quality fast bowlers for the top level. 

“The ethnic cultural mix puts Karachi at a huge advantage and here we do have quite a few potentially good fast bowlers. Their misfortune, however, is the quality of pitches which don’t offer them any sort of encouragement. I am convinced that Karachi will produce many fast bowlers of international quality if the pitches were made lively,” he contended during the media briefing of the Pace Bowlers Training Programme, being organized by the Customs Cricket Academy (CCA). 

He had no doubts in his mind whatsoever about the Karachi fast bowlers being capable enough to compete at the national level. “Yes I am absolutely sure that we do possess enormous talent in the fast bowling department as well. It’s just the question of polishing their skills and providing them the right kind of environment,” Nadeem Omar emphasized. 

Meanwhile a total of 16 promising youngsters, in the age group of 17 to 22 years, are being imparted one-month coaching under the guidance of the CCA Head Coach, Mr Jalaluddin. The programme, having commenced on December 15, will continue until January 14. 

The details were unveiled in a media briefing by Jalaluddin at the Karachi Gymkhana Banquet Hall. Nadeem Omar, Managing Director, Omar Associates, and Khalil Masood, former Collector of Customs, also shared their thoughts on the occasion. 

Besides the participating young cricketers, their coaches and trainers as well as some former cricketers like Abdul Raquib, Anwar Khan and Anwar-ul-Haq were also in attendance in the gathering. 

“The Pace Bowlers Training Programme is being conducted to provide an opportunity to the young and upcoming fast bowlers who have talent and capacity to graduate to the higher level. Qualified coaches feel that the raw talent should develop with the knowledge of basic bio-mechanics, physiology and attributes of physical fitness that help them in their self-development. Our programme has been designed to keep focus on these aspects,” Jalaluddin, acclaimed as the highest qualified cricket coach in the country, observed in his opening remarks. 

“The trainees have been picked in the age groups of Under-17 and Under-22 but neither of these youngsters has played much cricket yet and they are considered raw pace bowling talent. In the limited time period and also because of the resource constraints we could not hold open trials. We have selected these youngsters upon the recommendation of the various clubs of Karachi,” he revealed. 

“Although the programme is aimed at boosting the fast bowling resources of Karachi, the ultimate beneficiary will be the Pakistan cricket. A few of these bowlers, when developed perfectly, could go on to represent the country in future,” Jalaluddin felt. 

Khalil Masood, Patron of the CCA, remarked that Pakistan Customs, as a department, had a moral obligation to serve the community and it was exactly doing that by engaging the youth in such healthy activities. 

The cricketers selected for the Pace Bowlers Training Programme, being sponsored by Omar Associates, are Waqar Anwar, Nawaz Khan, Basit Ali, Noor Khan, Ihsan Afridi, Usman Ghani, Noman Saleem, Minhaj Kamal, Ahsan Iqbal, Khurram Shahzad, Sameed Qadri, Abdullah Aziz, Hammad Raza, Ahad Ali and Mohammad Raheel. A women cricketer, Maham Tariq, is also taking part in the training programme. 

The CCA will be spending around Rs 65,000 on each participant as it includes the cost of training, equipment, resource material and hospitality.

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December 24, 2013

Jahangir Moghul’s glowing tribute to Grand Master Ashraf Tai


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Renowned social figure and philanthropist, Jahangir Moghul, has paid glowing tribute to the iconic figure of Grand Master Mohammad Ashraf Tai, acclaimed as a living legend of martial arts.

Jahangir Moghul, having headed the Sports Coordination Committee of the Karachi Gymkhana with distinction for a number of years, has reckoned that the accomplishments of Grand Master Ashraf Tai serve as a source of inspiration to the people in general and the youngsters in particular.

Grand Master Ashraf Tai had introduced Bando, the Burmese style of martial arts, in Pakistan way back in 1971. 

His awesome performances against the top martial artists of the world earned him greater fame and recognition at a young age. He didn’t look back and went from strength to strength as the years went by.

“He has been synonymous with karate for more than four decades now. He has not only excelled himself but more significantly he has spread the flame with his continued coaching to the trainees at the Tai’s Karate Centre. He must be eulogized for his untiring efforts in training thousands of young boys and girls over the years many of whom are now themselves engaged in teaching the game to new students,” Jahangir Moghul, also a famous Rotarian, remarked.

He complimented the Grand Master for continuing to do the job with the same intensity for more than four decades, overcoming various issues with bravery and fortitude.

“It’s quite remarkable that Grand Master Ashraf Tai remains as passionate about the sport of karate as he was at the time of setting up his centre in 1971. He has lost none of his intensity and even today he teaches his trainees with the same level of dedication and commitment as decades ago,” Jahangir Moghul, added.

“Such personalities, who are role models for the society, should be promoted and highlighted at every forum. Let the others derive motivation from the likes of him. He thoroughly deserves the accolades coming his way,” the sports patron observed.

It may be recalled Grand Master Ashraf Tai had created a sensation by overpowering Stanley Michael of Malaysia in the final of the Afro-Asia Championship in 1978. He had confirmed his superiority in the continent by outwitting Japan's KohaYash a year later.

After having emerged triumphant in a tournament staged in Sri Lanka in 1980, he had dared fighting the reigning world champion, Don Wilson of the United States of America (USA), in 1981. The creditable performance against the world champion elevated his ranking to the ninth place in the world.

The Grand Master then founded the Pakistan Karate Federation (PKF) and succeeded in having the body affiliated to the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) as well as the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB).

Having received numerous awards in various continents of the world during his illustrious career, he was declared the International Grand Master of the Year in 2000 by an institution based in the USA. He was also conferred the coveted Pride of Performance award by the President of Pakistan.

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December 11, 2013

Bridge legend Zia Mahmood to partner Ameer Hasan in Super Bowl


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Zia Mahmood, regarded as the greatest-ever bridge player to have emerged from Pakistan, will team up with Syed Ameer Hasan in the Super Bowl bridge contest being organized in the latter’s honour by the Mind Sports Association of Pakistan (MSAP) early next month.

Tariq Rasheed Khan, Director, MSAP, has confirmed that the legendary Zia, who took Pakistan all the way to the final of the Bermuda Bowl World Championship two times during the 1980s, has confirmed his participation in the upcoming Super Bowl scheduled to be staged at the Aslam Bridge Hall, housed in the National Stadium Karachi, on January 2. 

Zia, who was declared as the Bridge Player of the Decade in the United States of America (USA), has lived abroad for a number of years but he has remained a regular visitor to the home country. 

“Zia is scheduled to arrive in Karachi in the New Year Day and besides taking part in the Syed Ameer Hasan Benefit Match and Super Bowl, he will also be involved in other ceremonies during the first week of January,” Tariq Rasheed disclosed. 

“The Super Bowl concept was introduced to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of bridge personalities. After having honoured 26 outstanding players and four organizers we have now decided to recognize Syed Ameer Hasan, a pioneer of bridge journalism in Pakistan. He has been a dedicated worker and committed player whose role in the promotion of bridge deserves to be eulogized,” the MSAP official stated.

Ameer Hasan had served the Pakistan Bridge Federation (PBF) as its Executive Secretary for more than a decade before having joined the MSAP three years ago. 

“His services were acquired by the MSAP immediately after he left the PBF in 2010. He has worked for the cause of bridge non-stop for a number of years and we felt it’s high time to honour him befittingly,” Tariq Rasheed observed. 

“The MSAP Chairman, Khurshid Hadi, had approved the Syed Ameer Hasan Benefit Match and Super Bowl about six months ago and Data Steel, the major sponsors of mind sports in the country, promptly agreed to support it. The date of January 2, 2014 was finalized in consultation with Zia Mahmood who was very eager to participate in the event,” he added. 

The MSAP Director didn’t deem it proper to disclose the exact amount Ameer Hasan was likely to be presented at the Super Bowl but assured that it would be a handsome purse.

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