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 Home > City Resources > Sports & Recreation > Personalities > Nasir Khan

 Interview with Nasir Khan 

Nasir Khan's survey of Indian hockey

Former hockey player Nasir Khan believes that hockey is poorly administered in India, which can be a destabilising factor for the younger generation who want to pursue a career in this game. Nasir asserts that Indian Hockey Federation has failed to lend credibility to its role as the guiding patron of the game (hockey) in the country. According to him, the government should bring sweeping changes at the administration level, which will help to reinvigorate the spirit of Indian hockey.

Nasir Khan  in actionNasir Khan played as a left-in and right-in (of the forward line) for India in the four-nation tournament in Holland in 1985. He represented Tata Sports Club in the premier tournaments of the country from 1975 to 1988. Nasir has also coached different teams like Holy Family School (Andheri), Andrews College (Bandra) and Union Bank. At present, the 44 year old Nasir is employed with Rallis India as an assistant manager. Nasir also oversees the day to day operations of the Tata Sports Club team, which includes arrangement of the playing kit, travel for outstation tournaments or organising the practice sessions at Tata Power ground, Trombay.

With his insight into the game, Nasir Khan spoke to about the current state of affairs in Indian hockey.

Who inspired you to take hockey as a career?

I had always admired the incredible feats of my father Munir Khan who played for Central Railway and Bhopal Wanderer, rubbed shoulders with the legendary Dhyanchand. As a youngster, I watched the top teams in action at the BHA ground. I began to pick up the rudiments of the game while practising hockey with my brother Shoeb Khan and other close friends in the railway colony of Byculla. I cherished the role of a right-in or left-in, which I had mastered in course of time. The first vital break of my career came in 1973, when I represented Bombay in the Junior National tournament. Struggle was an integral part of my life in those days, as I often borrowed the hockey stick from my team mates like Richard D'Souza.Nasir Khan in action during a game

My stature as a competitive player grew rapidly with experience. I played for India in the four-nation tournament which was held in Holland in 1985. From 1975 to 1988, I had represented Tata Sports Club in the premier tournaments of the country. I had also represented Bombay (senior) in the Nationals held in 1979, '80, '83, '84, '85, and '86.

Did you coach any particular team ?

Yes, I had coached the hockey teams of Holy Family School (Andheri), Andrews College (Bandra), and Union Bank. As a coach, I would emphasise on the physical fitness of the boys. I would also make a note of their technical mistakes in a competitive game, which I would try to rectify in the practice sessions.

Can you enunciate the reasons for the decline of hockey in India?

The apathy in the administration of hockey in India has become quite apparent in the past couple of decades. Unlike cricket tournaments, the organisation of state or national hockey tournaments is very poor. This is ironical while considering the fact that hockey is reckoned as our national game. The Indian Hockey Federation has always delayed the dispatch of the official letters via affiliated organisations like Bombay Hockey Association, which instructs players of different teams like Air India, Tata Sports Club, Western and Central Railway, etc to participate in the national tournaments or training camps. Most of the players are informed about a particular tournament, which is scheduled to be held at a distant venue like Delhi or Bangalore, at the very last minute. As result of this, the players cannot avail the facility of a reservation and are compelled to undertake the rigours of a journey in the unreserved compartment of outstation trains.

Don't you think the boys can travel in the unreserved compartment?

Usually, the boys carry their kit and other luggage for the outstation tournaments, which cannot be accommodated in the unreserved compartments. We (Tata Sports Club) had an awful experience, thanks to a late notice by Indian Hockey Federation, which informed about a premier tournament to be held in Jalandhar, Punjab, last year. We wanted to participate in the tournament, hence, our team of 18 boys boarded the Paschim Express at Mumbai Central. We urged the ticket collector to accommodate us in the reserved compartment, but despite our repeated pleas, the entire team was forced to disembark at the Borivali station.

Any other negative aspects in the administration of the game...

The small clubs like Republican or Rajput do not pay the travelling allowances to its players, who are invited to participate in the outstation tournaments by Indian Hockey Federation. These players are compelled to undertake the expenses for the journey of far off tournaments at their individual capacity. Only a handful of organisations like Tata Sports Club are generous enough to reimburse the travelling allowances to its players, which is ironically, the duty of the Indian Hockey Federation or Bombay Hockey Association.

Hockey was, once upon a time, perceived as a poor man's game. This common perception is no longer valid because the players use modern and sophisticated sticks, which nearly cost between Rs 800 to 1000, to practice the game on the Astroturf, in the modern era. As far the jobs are concerned, teams like Tatas, Mahindras and Mahindra, Air India have stopped recruitment. In fact, even after 24 years of service with the Tata Sports Club, I'm still unsure of my job.

What steps should be taken to retrieve back our pristine glory?

The government should ensure that the funds allotted for sports is properly utilised for development of all the games. The players should be provided with stable employment, so that they can concentrate on the game. Astroturf should be developed in large numbers, which will help our players to practice their skills with greater air of confidence. The government should also facilitate a special quota in the outstation trains for all the travelling sportsmen, who participate in distant tournaments.

How would you describe the impact of the Indian coach Cedric D'Souza ?

Cedric is the most dedicated and sensible coach in the country. He is a shrewd tactician, a good reader of the game and a hard taskmaster. Under his able guidance, India was able to beat Pakistan in the Gold Cup Hockey held in Bangladesh, which is a commendable achievement.

How will you compare your idol Mohammed Shahid with current star striker Dhanraj Pillai ?

Mohammed Shahid was renowned for his artistic stick work, which helped him to dribble the ball past the defenders. Dhanraj Pillai is very dashing and flamboyant; he is the only striker who has the ability to penetrate any defense. I think the Indian team clearly missed the services of Dhanraj in their 2-1 loss to Germany in the test series. I have also admired Ashok Kumar for his incomparable speed and stamina, and M K Kaushik, for his strict adherence to discipline.

How important is the role of a penalty corner specialist ?

You cannot win a match without scoring the goals. The penalty corner specialist is assigned the task of converting the short corners into goals and hence plays a very important role in the outcome of a game. Even if a player ( penalty corner specialist), is able to successfully convert at least 50 % of the short corners into goals, it can help the team to win the game. For instance, Holland became a world champion because she had Floris Jan Bovelander in its ranks, who was a great penalty corner specialist.

Why can't we produce penalty corner specialist like Holland, Great Britain or Pakistan?

A penalty corner specialist should have control over the fundamental aspects like stopping the ball, positioning the ball, etc., in addition, to the goal scoring ability. The younger players can be trained to drag and scoop the ball from the age of 16 or 17. Unfortunately, we do not concentrate at the grassroots. Len Ayappa, who played in the junior national tournament, was specially earmarked to be trained as a penalty corner specialist. However, he is nowhere in the picture at the moment.

How will you define the future of Indian hockey after the incredible victory against Pakistan in Gold Cup Hockey in Dhaka?

Pakistan is probably our (India) toughest opponent when compared to the other teams like Germany or Holland. Hence, victory against Pakistan in the Gold Cup Hockey, was certainly a great morale booster for our team. The future looks bright and the Indian team can deliver the goods in the forthcoming tournaments like Champions Trophy, only if the early success against Pakistan does not make us complacent.

By: Wasim Siddiqui


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