In Mansoor Ahmed’s demise, not only Pakistan hockey but world hockey has lost a legend and a kind soul.
My first interaction with Mansoor came in the 1994 World Cup where I was sent in as the government observer with the Indian team. The Asian teams were often not blessed with the best of goalkeepers and they largely got away because they weren’t tested that much. The trend though had started to change from the early 90s and world hockey was undergoing a rapid change. That is where Mansoor stood tall and made a lot of difference for his team.
I still remember the final tie-breaker and that stunning save from Mansoor off Jeroen Delmee which helped Pakistan lift the World Cup. That was a gutsy performance as the pressure was on Pakistan It was also moment where he became an instant hero for millions of Pakistanis around the world.
Even off the field Mansoor was quite a character, the two teams had dinner together with dignitaries and Mansoor was always sought out for. He was a rugged and a very handsome guy.
When I heard about his ailment, I got in touch with former Pakistan captain Shahbaz Ahmed. I was able to get a lot of help from doctors in Chennai who were willing to operate on him. I couldn’t reach his family directly but we were in touch through Shahbaz. Apollo hospital was willing to take care of everything including visas and documentation but I think his family was a bit hesitant about the technology being used. He was also quite ill and it had become difficult for him to travel. Later on, doctors from here were in touch with doctors in Pakistan who were treating him.
I feel the way forward to ensure Mansoor’s legacy is not forgotten would be to resume sporting ties between the two countries. I have been to Pakistan more than any politician and I know that people of both the countries would love to see each other compete. Sports can certainly be a bridge that can reduce the distance between the two countries.
I am sure he is in a better place now and I also take this opportunity to offer my condolences to his family.
As Told to Arjit Dabas
(V.Baskaran was captain of India's 1980 Olympic Gold Medal Winning Hockey Team)