Pakistan’s first-ever international hockey team, who had the honour of participating in the 1948 Olympics, included a youngster from the town of Bannu. His name was Abdul Hameed, better known as Hameedi. An outstanding inside-right, Hameedi, who rose to the rank of brigadier in the Pakistan Army, was not only a schemer but also a tremendous scorer. He was a member of both the 1948 and 1952 Olympics teams. But these teams, despite having several outstanding players, could only finish fourth. The main reason of the failure was a lack of harmony and discipline. Hameedi was then made the captain of the team in 1956 and he didn’t disappoint – the army officer inculcated much-needed discipline and spirit in the team. Under Hameedi’s able captaincy, Pakistan won silver medal at the 1956 Olympics losing to India by a controversial goal in the final. Still, it was an epoch-making moment in the country’s sporting history as it was Pakistan’s first ever medal of any colour in any Olympic discipline. Then, in 1958, Hameedi led Pakistan to a gold medal at the Asian Games. It was the first time that India was relegated to second position in any international hockey tournament. Abdul Hameed ‘Hameedi’ at the top of the podium at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. And finally Hameedi attained eternal legend status by skippering Pakistan to their maiden Olympic gold in 1960. The final of the 1960 Rome Olympics is still regarded as one of the finest moments in Pakistan’s sports history. That’s when Pakistan came head-to-head against their archrivals India for the second time in the Olympic history. But unlike the first meeting in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Pakistan were not ready to settle for silver. Under brilliant leadership of Hameedi, Pakistan ended India’s 30-year dominance in hockey on September 9, 1960. With so much to prove, they went into the final to defeat India 1-0 with Naseer Bunda’s timeless goal – shocking the world champions of more than three decades, who lost to the underdogs. The common thread in the Rome Olympics gold was captain Hameedi. This man had waited for four Olympics since 1948 to win the gold. A formidable captain and a tactical genius who led Pakistan by example, Hameedi is still the only person to captain Pakistan twice in the Olympics: 1956 and 1960. Watching his game in Rome, the famous English hockey journalist R.I. Holland paid tribute to Hameedi by calling him “the most constructive forward in the world.” Hameedi’s tally of 16 Olympic goals remained a Pakistan record till 2008 when penalty corner specialist Sohail Abbas surpassed it. Hockey had changed the landscape for sports in Pakistan. The sport was introduced in the subcontinent by the British in 1885 and later local clubs were established throughout the region. The All-India team won their first gold medal at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. After losing their title for the first time in six Olympics – pre- and post-partition – Indians kept saying that Pakistan’s victory was a fluke. But the team had shaken their neighbours’ throne once and for all. It was the day the world of sports realised that Pakistan existed. But more importantly, the Indians understood that they don’t rule hockey anymore. Despite them calling Pakistan’s victory a fluke, Pakistan defeated them again in the 1962 Asian Games final. The biggest honour came for Pakistan hockey when President General Ayub Khan named hockey as the national sport after meeting the Rome Olympics winners. Before 1960, the government had not decided what Pakistan’s national sport would be. But Ayub Khan named it the national sport, because Pakistan players were too good at it. Even after his retirement from professional hockey, Hameedi managed the Pakistan team on quite a few occasions, including the 1966 and 1970 Asian Games with Pakistan winning silver and gold medals, respectively. His last stint as manager was the 1973 World Cup, where Hameedi was handicapped since he was overseeing a second-string side. The Pakistan team who had participated in the 1972 Olympics were banned by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) for inappropriate behaviour after their defeat in the controversy-marred final against the hosts West Germany. And yet, it goes to Hameedi and his team’s credit that Pakistan still managed to finish fourth at the 1973 World Cup. Hameedi’s last role was as the secretary general of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF). He assumed the post when the country’s hockey was at the lowest ebb till then. Pakistan had slumped to their worst positions in the World Cup and the Olympics. They ended 11th at the 1986 World Cup and finished fifth at the 1988 Olympics. Then began a revival under Hameedi’s watchful gaze. Pakistan regained some of their lost prestige by finishing as the runners-up in the 1990 World Cup, superbly hosted in Lahore by Hameedi’s PHF, and then by winning the bronze at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. In addition, Pakistan regained the Asian Games title apart from retaining the Asia Cup. Without Hameedi, the story of Pakistan hockey is incomplete. He served the game in almost every possible capacity: player, captain, manager of the team, and secretary of the PHF. At all times, Hameedi brought hope with him. Hameedi lives with his family in Islamabad. Published in Daily Times, August 29th 2017.