Shahbaz Ahmed is a nostalgic name in Bangladesh hockey. In the mid-nineties, Bangladesh’s domestic hockey was defeated in Dhaka Mohammedan’s jersey. He has come to Dhaka three or four times in various roles. “Maradona of hockey” came to Bangladesh for the fifth time three days ago. He is the consultant of cricketer Shakib Al Hasan’s team Monarch Mart in the country’s first franchise hockey league, which will begin on October 28 in Dhaka. On this occasion, 54-year-old Shahbaz Ahmed sat in the restaurant of the team hotel in Paltan yesterday afternoon and looked back on various aspects of hockey including Bangladesh.
Memories of playing at Mohammedan
The memory still haunts him. So he came to Bangladesh with pleasure. Shahbaz said, “People of Bangladesh respect and love me. So happy to come here. Perhaps after winning the World Cup in 1994, I came to Dhaka for the first time in 1995 for Mohammedan, then I played on the grass field for the first time.
He played three years in Mohammedan and made the team champion every time. Opponents couldn’t stand up to his snake-like crooked stickwork, which Shahbaz feels thrills even today. “When we entered the field in black and white jerseys, the audience used to shout a lot. It was a great feeling. The audience loved my hockey skills. I will never forget it,’ said the hockey legend in a calm voice.
After receiving the proposal from Mohammedan, he said that he will take all the decisions of the party. Why? 27 years back said, ‘Because, I wanted to champion Mohammedan. So I was the captain of the team, I was the coach. Foreign players are taken according to my preference. I never do anything by halves. I would give 100%. We would have been the champions because of that.
What do you want to do in the franchise league?
Shakib has joined the team, but he has never spoken to the ‘poster boy’ of Bangladesh cricket. He knows that Shakib is now busy with the World Cup. Shahbaz’s goal in this tour is to beat Shakib’s team. The players will be taught many things. How to stay strong on the field… Attitude… . While sipping the glass of juice, Shahbaz said, “I will give you 100%.” Want to give something to local players. So that they are energized.’
However, Shahbaz does not think that this franchise league can bring back the bustling atmosphere of the Dhaka league in the nineties. The reason also said, ‘Hockey in Bangladesh does not have the same atmosphere as before, nor does it have standards. Franchise league is good. But some foreign players are being brought in, whose country is nothing like hockey. What is the benefit of bringing foreign players over 30 years old? Age should be seen. And we have to make sure how many young people of your country get an opportunity here.
advice : Bangladesh has to host the event at the Asian level. So that boys can be excited, learn something. In fact, he advised the Bangladesh Hockey Federation saying that there are many things to do, “I want to sit with the federation.” I will tell them to sit and ask for the government’s help in hockey development. Let the government make 3-4 turfs in the whole country. At least two foreign tours should be arranged for boys in a year. It can be done in Malaysia and China at low cost. Otherwise boys will lose interest. After that, we have to play with India-Pakistan.
He gave the example of cricket, “Cricket Bangladesh now plays with Pakistan, Australia. Similarly, I want to play with big countries in hockey. There is no alternative to these. Only then will they prepare well.’ But in 2018, Jakarta did not play an international match for 40 months after the Asiad. This is the reality.
Shahbaz feels that there should be hostel, dining, recreation room, table tennis for hockey players. So that boys from other cities can come to Dhaka, a hockey atmosphere is created. But the truth is that the domestic hockey league of Bangladesh is not regular. Premier League, first division not for 4 years. In this situation, a hockey atmosphere is far-fetched. There are irregularities and corruption on the part of the organizers.
Shahbaz said, “Pakistan’s Qamar Ibrahim was the coach of the Bangladesh hockey team. He called me yesterday and told me a lot about the irregularities of the organizers in hockey in Bangladesh. He said, when he was a coach, he saw that the organizers wanted to make money here. If the price of a juice is 100 taka, he would write 200 taka. I am very disappointed to hear this.
The Maradona analogy of hockey : Shahbaz made Pakistan champion in 1992 Barcelona Olympics, 1994 Sydney World Cup. Man of the Match in 8-10 international tournaments. He was the world’s best for almost 10 years. “Maradona of hockey” “King of hockey” “Maradona of hockey”… he likes to see these adjectives. He said, “Football is a popular game worldwide. I feel honored when people compare me with Maradona. Maradona got the popularity in football, I got in hockey. You can call me street boy. I became the Maradona of hockey playing on the streets of my birthplace Faisalabad. There is nothing more proud than that. King of hockey, Maradona of hockey – I like to see these adjectives.’
Thank God, ‘There was no coach in the world who could teach me hockey. I didn’t have a physical trainer to teach me. I played hockey with the talent that nature gave me. I used to see everything myself. Sports, my diet, everything. I didn’t watch newspapers and TV much. I used to focus on the game all the time.
Shahbaz was very popular then. Man of the Tournament in 1990 World Cup, Man of the Tournament in 1994 World Cup, BMW Trophy Man of the Tournament in Holland, Indira Gandhi Tournament Man of the Tournament in India. But watch cricket today Babar Azam man of the match, Shaheen Afridi man of the match tomorrow, Virat Kohli the day after tomorrow. Shahbaz was often the man of the match. Shahbaz said, ‘World Cup, Asian Games, Champions Trophy, would be the best. It was my habit to be the best.’