Aziz ur Rehman - A golden name in hockey
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

HOCKEY WAS the second team game in which Pakistan made its debut after independence. The Pakistan hockey team was led by the late All Iqteda Shah Dara in the first postwar Olympic hockey tournament held in London in 1948.

Pakistan lost in the play-off for the bronze medal between the losing semi-finalists. Pakistan had been in Group C and in the league matches had beaten Belgium 2-1, Denmark 9-0, France 3-1, and the Netherlands 6-1. In the semi-finals it lost to Britain by 2-0, and for the third place, the Netherlands, which had lost to Pakistan in the league match by a wide margin, won by an impressive difference of four to one.

Why this happened has become an oft-repeated story of interference by people unconcerned with the game of hockey or Pakistan's other team game cricket. "A few players, who did not get to play in the league matches, involved Pakistan High Commission officials in London by claiming that they were being ignored. The High Commission ought to have known better than to interfere. Pakistan had been winning till then. But pressure was brought to bear on A.I.S. Dara, the captain, and Basit Ali Shaikh, the manager and O.B. Naxareth, the assistant manager and changes were made for the subsequent matches, which Pakistan lost."

Of tha nineteen players that comprised the 1948 team, only two survive. One of them is Aziz-ur-Rehman Khan, and the other is Jamshed Hamid.



On the way back from London, the Pakistan team played several matches in Europe and two in Cairo. They drew with the Netherlands 0-0, beat Belgium in the first match by 8-0, and drew the second 5-5, beat a Geneva eleven 7-0, defeat¬ed an Italian team at Mirano by 6-0, and vanquished the Cairo team twice scoring 5-0 and 8-0.

 

On coming to Karachi after 1947, several former Delhi Independent Hockey players, among which Aziz-ur-Rahman was prominent, had formed the Pak Independents. After 1948, Aziz-ur-Rahman continued his association with them. The team would play against local teams throughout Pakistan. They also went to Bombay in 1951 and 1952. Aziz-ur-Rahman captained the Sindh team in 1952.

Aziz-ur-Rahman was born in Delhi on March 13, 1923. That makes hiim over 75 years o]d now.He is hale and hearty and is an entrapeneur at more then one level.

He started playing hockey at young age in school, the Municipal board of Delhi. "We used to call it MB" he says. It had large grounds and team games. Hockey was especially popular. Of course, the population mix at school, reflecting that of the city with a Hindu majority. One of my schoolmates was Mukesh who later became one of India's leading film singers. Another person that I might mention was Ruknuddin, who buillt many plazas etc. in Karachi in the sixties.

At MB I broke two long-standing traditions. I was the first Muslim captain of the school hockey team and led it to the first victory In the inter-school tournament in Delhi, when I was about seventeen years old.

We were pitted against the Delhi Punjabi Saudagran High School and I still remember that there was a mela-like atmosphere, with supporters of both schools, about ten to twelve thousand strong on the Queen's Road ground in old Dilli. There were no concrete steps but wooden planks instead. There were Hindu panditjees with their maas and the Mussalman maulvis with their tasbeehs praying for their respective teams. Playing as centre-half, I scored the only goal of the match for my team. That was my first goal in a big match and though I netted many more afterwards, I don't remember the details."

This performance put Aziz-ur-Rahman on the honour roll for hockey in his school. The second tradition that he broke was that he passed the Matric exam. All hockey captains at MB failed their first attempts. The great R.S. Gentle, who later played for India had also failed, though he got a second division in his sec¬ond attempt. So when the day for getting results came, I and my friends went though the motions of looking for my number in the lists of successful candidates. The second division list did not have my number, and neither was my number among those under the third division category. So we gave up. But suddenly It struck somebody that it might be in the list of first-divisioners. I suspect my friend was trying to pull my leg. He  couldn't have been serious, but there it was, to the astonishment of all of us, not the least but mine. Later, the marksheet revealed that I had gor 480 out of 495, one of the best results ever".

"Like some of the best teams in India, such as the Bhopal  Wanderers, or the hockey team of the Nawab of Manavadar, we too, in Delhi had our own team, the Delhi Independents. I used to watch them play with wonder and envy. Muhammad Husain was one of my early models. To emulate him, I used to practise with a branch of a tree, a veritable piece of firewood. Princess Abida Sultan was herself a hockey enthusiast, and was a sight in pyjamas. A hockey match involving any school team was an event. And if any celebrated team was involved, it was like a congregation at Eid prayers. Entry was, of course, free, and people came in thousands. They understood hockey." It was probably in the early 40's when Aziz-ur-Rahman first went on a tour to Bhopal with the Delhi Independents to participate in the Obaidullah Gold Cup Tournament.

"Mr Bhatnagar, the headmaster of MB had praised me a great deal and that had been instrumental in my being taken on as a player by the Independents. This was a golden opportunity."

Aziz-ur-Rahman remembers his skill being pitted against the greats of hockey, intimidating to a youngster like him. There were Major Shakoor, Habib, Anwar, Akhtar Husain, and Latif, awesome in attack and invincible in defence."

Azizur Rahman got a job with the central public works department in Delhi. Players and sportsmen used to be employed at Rs 40 a month.

"I got the job because I was also a student of the electrical department at the local polytechnic. At the same time I continued to play with the Independents in the company of Balbir Singh, Kheshaw, and Gurunarain Singh, who would later play for India as I would for Pakistan. But my game so, impressed the team management that it always took me along on tours to Bombay or Gwalior, but none of the other three."

In 1944, Aziz-ur-Rahman became an overseer at the public works department and was transferred to Calcutta. There he played for the Mohan Baqai. He remembers his jaunt in that city with joy. They were good, friendly people."    

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In 1946 he was back in Delhi which he represented until 1947. But the domination of the Independents in Delhi was almost total: nine out of the eleven players on the field would be usually Independent players. The two exceptions weres Mascarenhas and Gasswand. Pakistan's Habib Ali Kiddie was the latter's pupil.

Aziz-ur-Rahman is strangely reticent about himself. He will talk as much as you like about the merits of others, but is most reluctant to blow his own trumpet.    Anwar Ahmad Khan, one of Pakistan's best centre-forwards ever, contends that Aziz-ur-Rahman was one of the fastest on his feet in the late 40's and the early 50's.

"He has ever been a gentleman, never involving himself in controversy of any kind. In fact, this attitude of not engaging in unpleasant encounters, showed itself on the field. Hockey is a fast, tough game. Aziz Bhai was fast of course but he would do his bit and disengage immediately, keeping a distance between himself and the opposing players.

He never hurt anybody on the field and I do not recall if he was himself ever struck by anyone. He was a clean player."



Aziz-ur-Rahman recalls his selection the first time for the Delhi district team for the 1942 inter-provincial tournament.

"My team won against Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and finally against Punjab in Lahore." Like his performance for MB sever¬al years earlier, this too was a first. Delhi won the inter-provincial tournament for the first time.

In preparation (before partition) for the 1948 Olympics, Aziz-ur-Rehman was among the seven players from the Delhi Independents, who were selected for the all-India hockey team.

Says Anwar, "It was no ordinary feat for any player to be selected on the entire subcontinent basis. Competition was tough and keen. Remember that India was the dominant hockey team in the world and being selected to represent it established a players credentials forever."

Says Aziz-ur-Rahman, "R.S. Gentle was our captain. We toured Bombay, South India and Ceylon, as Sri Lanka was known then. It was really a one-sided show. We won against all."

In Karachi after Pakistan came into being, Aziz-ur-Rahman, and Zakaullah Qureshi, formed the Pak Independents. They would play against CP Gymkhana, police, customs, Husain D'Siiva and St Patrick's. The last mentioned, says Aziz-ur-Rahman, was a good team, and would graciously allow other teams to play on its grounds.

As he had been selected for the Indian hockey team, so was he selected for the Pakistan hockey team for the 1948 Olympics in London.
 
"Our performance in the league matches was fine. We were expected to win the semi-final against Britain too at the Wembley Stadium, but it had rained the night before, and in the morning there were some equestrian exercises. We were not used to playing on a ground dug up by horse-hoofs. We lost 2-0. Britain got one penalty comer and converted it with a very good shot. "We got a dozen chances," says Aziz-ur-Rahman, "but we couldn't score. And we watched sadly, as India beat Britain by five goals."

One reason for losing, according to Aziz-ur-Rahman, was because of the aging Colonel Dara. He had first played in the 1932 Olympics. This was 1948, sixteen years later. Dara couldn't even run.

Aziz-ur-Rahman continued to play with full vigour for the next four years. He was selected again for the 1952 Olympics. But in the meantime, he had developed asthma and had to cut down on his rather frequent hockey engage¬ments. He didn't go to Helsinki, because his doctor forbade him. Thus sickness got the better of a player who had got the better of so many others on the battleground of hockey. •

By Sikandar Sarwar
Published in Dawn The Review, June 18— 24,1998