Mohammed Shahid


Mohammed Shahid
Olympic medal record
Men's field hockey
Gold 1980 Moscow Team Competition

Mohammed Shahid (born 14 April 1960) is a former field hockey player from India. A dashing forward with the ability to weave past any defence with his amazing dribbling skills. He was a member of the Indian team that won the gold medal at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow and was captain of India during 1985-86. Apart from being known as the worlds best dribbler, Shahid was essentially an inside-left whose speedy runs in tandem with left-out Zafar Iqbal made a mockery of most defences. Born at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, he first played for India in the Junior World Cup in France in 1979. He was awarded Arjuna Award in 1980-1981 and Padma Shri in 1986. He is leading a retired life now.[1]

References

  1. ^ he is presently working in indian railways as a tte "Dhillon gets visa power; Vivek assured help-Sports-The Times of India". timesofindia.indiatimes.com. 3 June 2004. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/718166.cms. Retrieved 2008-03-27. 

At the age of 19 years he was selected for the Junior Indian Hockey team participating in the Junior World Cup held in France. Just within a short span of one year, he was able to find a place for himself in the Senior National Hockey team of India that represented the nation at International Hockey Tournament, Kuala Lumpur and Champions Trophy Tournament, Karachi in 1980.

Although the Indian squad didn’t fare quite well at the Karachi tournament, Mohammed Shahid was named as the Best Forward of the Tournament over there. Further, he represented the Indian team at the Moscow Olympic Games 1980, where the squad managed to grab the Gold Medal successfully. He also played at the World Cup Hockey Tournament 1981-82 held at Bombay (now Mumbai), wherein the Indian team finishted at 5th place. Afterwards, he participated in the Champions Trophy Hockey Tournament, Karachi in 1983 & 1984, and played at Esanda World Hockey Tournament held at Perth, Australia.

Shahid was a part of the Indian Hockey team that played at Los Angeles Olympic Games 1984 and Seoul Olympic Games 1988, although the Indian team couldn’t get any medal at these events. He also represented the Indian team at Delhi Asian Games 1982, getting the nation a Silver Medal, and Seoul Asian Games 1986, grabbing a Bronze Medal for the team. Owing to his brilliant performance at the Seoul Asian Games 1986, he was selected for the Asian All Star Hockey team. Shahid played for the Indian team at London World Cup Hockey tournament 1986, where the Indian squad could only manage to secure 12th position.

Other Achievements Mohammed Shahid had excellent dribbling skills and was said to be the Best Dribbler in the World. As an employee of the Indian Railways as a Welfare Inspector, Mohammed Shahid has represented the Indian Railways Hockey team in a number of National Hockey Championships, and even got the team a National Championship Title in the year 1988 played at Delhi. He has also led the Indian Hockey team as its Captain during the year 1985-86.

Awards As an honor to his outstanding services to the nation in the sport of Hockey, Mohammed Shahid was conferred upon Arjuna Award in the year 1980-81. Further, he was also honored with the Padma Shri award in the year 1986.

Mohammed Shahid has managed to stay away from the limelight with the same ease he evaded defenders. Crest revisits the genius of dribble.

It's always something meeting a forgotten childhood hero. It's like running into an old teacher, and it's invariably a new education.

Mohammed Shahid sits in his six-by-six office, an unlikely sanctuary insulated from the ageless bustle of ancient Varanasi outside. The tight space even manages to cut him off from the constant rumble of trains that pass by the sprawling Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW) complex. But almost by habit, Shahid can identify each train as it slowly trundles towards Varanasi Cantt station, low toot for effect. "Swatantra is running late today... " he murmurs without looking up as he sifts through a sheath of papers that require his signature.

It is a slow moving life that the once mercurial Shahid has chosen for himself. As Chief Sports Officer, he is known to dash across the DLW headquarters corridors, ostensibly to make up for the lack of pace, often dispensing instructions to hulking Railways wrestlers and gangling basketball players who seek his audience but struggle to keep in step with him.

Maybe, it is in moments like these that the man relives flashes of his past. Maybe he even allows himself a quiet chuckle. But it is still a slow life, one that you can't associate with someone who was all speed and blur. Like some sawedoff version of Rajnikanth, shorn of the get-up and startlingly plain, Shahid's appearance today only catches your attention if you have come looking for him. There is no hockey anymore in Shahid's life and he is not poorer for it.

As he sees you peering quizzically at the transformation, he sets aside the files, gently thumps the top of his desk, and says, "Haan partner, bolo..." So you ask him why?

He can't understand what the fuss is all about. "Look, I am Mohammed Shahid. That will not ever change. Yes, I was India captain; people said I had God given talent with dribbling skills. Mujhe bhi yaad hai, har waqt mar dodge, mar dodge. Par ek time ke baad mann bhar gaya (Even I remember dodging past players all the time. But after a while, it was enough)," he says.

There is no rancour, no bitterness. Instead, what comes forth, with the lilt of his talk, is a candour that is typical of the culture he hails from. Sample this: " Pakistan toh aise jaate they, jaise Orderly Bazaar se Kachehri..." It is a telling statement on the strained relations with Pakistan, once our much-awaited rivals in hockey.

They say Varanasi is a city of storytellers. Yet, Mohammed Shahid makes his own eventful one a short, snappy affair where twists and turns are smoothened more by the man than the ravages of time. "People say had he moved on from Banaras, Shahid would have become something. Maybe, it's true. But to them, I say if there was no Banaras, there wouldn't be Mohammed Shahid," he says.

You are reminded of Salim, a former National camper in the '90s and currently a train ticket examiner on the North Eastern division. One ran into him during a last-minute reservation crisis. Salim referred to the famed homesickness of the people of Varanasi, as he casually upgraded your travelling class since Bhai had instructed him to do so. "Just see where his former teammates are today, and see where Shahidbhai is languishing. People make over a lakh a month in Mumbai or Delhi, while he just takes home around Rs 40,000," he says. Lekin, arre bhai, this is Banaras. Shahidbhai could never be an exception to the norm," added Salim.

Shahid has made a comfortable corner for himself to provide for life after the game. "Partner, this is my livelihood," he says of his cramped office that is stuffed with trophies. "If I leave this, where do I go? My family is here. My twins are taking their boards. Why disturb them?" As he takes us on a tour of the labyrinthine gallis that dot the old city, he explains why he didn't opt for coaching. "As a player I stayed away from home for over 14 years. Why should I spend the rest of my life outside too?"

The tour along the famous ghats was meant to be leisurely, but it is a crash course on how to evade crowds. Shahid is strangely ill at ease in the tight maze. He zips out of each lane even before he zips in, giving you an idea how and where those famous dodges may have come from.

His first captain Vasudevan Baskaran's words come to mind. "It's not easy to describe Shahid's movement on the field. But if you have seen a banana tree falling after being hacked, you can visualise his craft. A tree never comes crashing down. It's always a slow fall, almost twisting away from the person who has chopped it. Shahid used to evade defenders with incredible body twist - a rare quality that can't be taught or imitated," the former India skipper says.

"I am not the sort to go looking for people to call me and hand me favours," Shahid continues as he skips past a tethered goat, round a cow and over a tiny drain as a funeral procession races past. "I have played three World Cups, but if I am not invited (to the World Cup in New Delhi) I won't go. I don't want to be turned away at the stadium gates. No policeman is going to recognise me or remember that I was India captain, an Arjuna awardee, a Padma Shree winner. People say I copied this player and that, but whoever I saw play well in the neighbourhood matches, I tried taking on his style. Once the great Ashok Kumar visited the Sport's Hostel in Lucknow and we saw him dribbling. It was fascinating. Ball glued to his stick, it went chcharr, chcharrr..."

For those who came in late, Mohammed Shahid was Dhanraj Pillay before the man from Pune happened. A member and eventual captain of a talented team of the 80s, the wiry Shahid was the centre-forward who formed a memorable attacking partnership with the more urbane Zafar Iqbal. In a sport fast receding from public memory, the 1980s perhaps saw the last generation of players whose names and faces could be associated with action on the field. The team itself did not win too many titles. The Moscow Olympics gold is arguably Shahid's only medal of repute; the squad also lived through Indian hockey's biggest humiliation, a 7-1 rout by Pakistan in the Asian Games final in 1982.

Hockey was yet to be inundated by cricket and national television was fair in apportioning airtime to both. It was a striking team in terms of appearance. There were the avuncular Iqbal and Vineet Kumar, the boyish Thoiba Singh from Manipur; there was the urban sophistication of MM Somaya and Merwyn Fernandes and the hulking presence of Mohinder Pal Singh and Joaquim Carvalho. In that, Shahid, amongst the youngest in the team, stood out. Shy and introverted, his personality emerged when he took to the field, exploding into a livewire.

To lads growing up back then, he was the original homegrown superstar, a dribbler with marvellous close control even at mesmerising speed - a sheer, sudden joy. "You can't borrow elegance, Shahid was born with it," explains Baskaran. "I was left-half and Shahid was left-in . I used to play the role of a feeder and once I passed the ball to Shahid, you could only watch him dribbling past the opponents. It was like a computer game, where all the programmes are set beforehand," he says.

"I remember the World Cup in 1982," recalls former teammate Somaya. "It was against the Dutch. Ties Kruize, Paul Litjens and two other guys had swarmed around Shahid. Four of them in a tight four-by-four space and this guy just dribbled out of it. Only he could do it," says Somaya, adding, "Maybe, he never had the yen for coaching, because coming generations could have really used his skill."

When one saw Pillay emerge over a decade later, you marvelled at the sinewy lithe animal, but it always gave you the feeling that you had seen it before. Of course, what ensured Pillay's long recall apart from his fiery game was that he had a voice, and he exercised it. We don't recall ever hearing Shahid's voice, strange in a sport as voluble as hockey.

There is a famous story of how Pakistani legend Hassan Sardar grew so incensed at being at the receiving end of Shahid's wizardry during the 1986 Test series that he almost went to hit him. "Shahid pushed the ball between Sardar's legs and then drew it back. Just for a lark. He did that a couple of times and a furious Hassan Sardar told Shahid he would come to his hotel room and sort out matters later," remembers Somaya with a laugh. When reminded of the incident, Shahid too laughs. "We had some memorable encounters. They had this bahut khoobsoorat sa player, Qasim Zia. We used to call him Rishi Kapoor and often heckled him with that.

"Our game had a feel back then. Old people would come up and want to kiss my hands," he suddenly says. '" Are these the hands that are weaving such magic?' they'd ask and touch them to their lips. It was a humbling moment."

Shahid burst on the Indian scene as a callow 19-year-old during a four-nation tournament in Malaysia in 1979. "Pakistan had a formidable side. Shahid was little more than a teenager but he left a huge impression," says Baskaran. Shahid too remembers it way too clearly. "When I ran rings around the Pakistanis, Akhtar Rasool asked Surjeet Singh, 'B******* d, yeh kis kakkri ko pakkad ke le aaye ho...'" he laughs.

Today, balding, having put on the years, put away his hockey stick, having developed a fear of flying (" Send me an Innova or receive me at the railway station, but don't ask me to fly. It scares me" ), Shahid is happy with the life he's chosen. Away from the limelight and away from the sport that he made so many fall in love with, he's moved on.

Mohammed Shahid, uncrowned king of Banaras, where everyone claims you are a friend. They continue talking of you even after the lights go off on overnight trains to your city. "Arre! Shahidji? Kya kamal ke dribbler they..."


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