By Hussain Ahmed
Editor’s Note: Hussain Ahmed was born in Rawalpindi on 6 June 1933. He passed his Matriculation from Denny’s High School in 1952. Then he attended Gordon College from 1952 to 1953. He is a retired manager of Allied Bank Ltd. He has a photographic memory and considered as an authority on Rawalpindi Saddar. He has been requested to write about Rawalpindi of yester years. These are his personal views/observations, one may not agree with them. His aim is to inform and educate people on history of hockey in Rawalpindi.
The organised Club level hockey was started in Rawalpindi around 1925. The Rawalpindi Hockey Association was established in 1930 and it celebrated its Silver Jubilee in 1955.
If you take GPO Rawalpindi as a centre, then within a radius of one mile major activates in Rawalpindi took place in early 1930s, 40s and 50s. Four corners of Rawalpindi Cantonment were Railway Station, Military Hospital (MH), Saddar and Lalkurti area. This one mile produced significant hockey players. Also it was a major entertainment for people of this area to watch hockey matches. Even Tonga walas, parked their Tongas outside Victoria Ground (Present day Army Hockey Stadium) and enjoyed watching hockey matches. There was a public involvement also. It encouraged the players. In front of Victoria Ground was a statue of Queen Victoria. Now that statue is lying in British High Commission, Islamabad.
Initially there were two hockey clubs in Rawalpindi; Union Freshmen and Pindi Tigers. British Military Hospital (BMH) which is now called Combined Military Hospital (CMH) also had a hockey team which was exclusively for British Army doctors and other British officers. There were two hockey grounds, one was near BMH and the other was near Northern Command (now GHQ). On the latter location, Blue Lagoon Restaurant and Army Welfare Trust Marriage Halls have been built. There was a hockey ground called, Risala Ground, near Military Hospital (MH). At present AFNS Mess is located there. There was another hockey ground near Pindi Club where at present is T&T Colony. It belonged to Army Observer Corps Group.
Union Freshmen had all its players from the Cantonment area. They were mostly Muslims but there were some Hindu players as well. Riaz-ud-Din was goalkeeper. My uncle, Said Mahmood and my father Said Ahmed were the founders of Union Freshmen. My uncle was an outstanding player but got sick in young age and died in 1948. My father played till late and also presented All India Telegraph Team, a great honour. My father was an avid hockey player. I was hardly 5 or 6 years old but still vividly remember his peculiar symbol of identity, a bicycle which was fitted with a clip. He used to fit his hockey stick in that clip while cycling. He never went to the ground in shorts. He used to wear trousers and always changed into shorts when reached the ground.
Pindi Tigers had players from Murree Road, College Road and Gordon College Road, etc. Olympian A Hamid Hameedi (later Brig) also played with this team. Dr. Mahmood also played with them. He was a famous person and his clinic was on Jamia Masjid Road. Dr. Mahmood joined the Army for some time and remained there as a civilian. He was later an International Umpire of Hockey. His son was General Manager of Pearl Continental Hotel Rawalpindi. Pindi Tigers was looked after by people from Rawalpindi City, including Hindus.
BMH team used to play frequent matches with Union Freshmen Club. BMH had funds and resources and used to entertain the other team with tea and eatables. They entertained them separately and they were not allowed to mix up with British officers whose tea arrangements were always in another enclosure. Some Indian players did not like this racist attitude and objected to it. BMH team did not give any importance to local clubs’ protest for having refreshments separately. They just ignored it. Local clubs used to play for the sake of hockey and not tea. Class difference was there. Boys were still happy that they were playing hockey with Goras. It was a sort of honour for them.
During the early days of hockey in Rawalpindi, it was patronized by some philanthropists. I would like to mention the name of Khan Bahadur Ismail who was kind enough to donate some money for the hockey teams in 1930s. Sheikh FE (Fazal Eliahi) Naseer-ud-Din was another person who patronized hockey in those formative years. He was father of Capt Amir-ud-Din (he was in FF and got early retirement). Sheikh Naseer was the member of Rawalpindi Cantonment Board and later became its Vice President too. His opponent in Cantonment Board elections was a Hindu by the name of Dr. Ram Krishan Handa. Sheikh Naseer mostly used to win. His election office was in my grandfather’s house in Saddar near Capital Cinema.
Union Freshmen was looked after by Khan Bahadar Ismial Khan and Sheikh FE Naseer-ud-Din, famous persons from Rawalpindi. Where there is Grugsons Dry Cleaners shop, that road has been named Sheikh FE Naseer-ur-Din Road. Their names are also in the old photographs, as Chief Patrons.
The chief guest sitting in the centre is Mr. Noor Ellahi, owner of Commercial Union Press near GPO, Rawalpindi.
Sitting on ground L to R: Sunder Das, Muhammad Din (His brother had Eagle Printing Press next to Messey Gate, Saddar, Rawalpindi).
Standing Row, Left to Right: No. 6 Khurshad Ellahi (younger brother of Noor Ellahi, chief guest in this photo).
Sunder Das, a Shudra Caste Hindu, was an excellent player in Union Freshmen team. He was earmarked for 1932 Olympics but could not be selected because the other Hindus in Indian Hockey team objected and did not want to live and eat with him. Had he been selected he would have been a player of the calibre of Dhyan Chand (known as “The Wizard”) who is widely considered as the greatest field hockey player of all time.
Maj Hans Raj (nick name ‘Hansoo’) was another person who patronized hockey in Rawalpindi. He later retired as a Maj Gen in Indian Army. When Union Freshmen was dissolved, it was converted into 300 Spartans (named after 300 Greek Spartans), this effective name was selected by Maj Hans Raj. Hindu and Muslim players used to play together in this new team. There was a boy Jeewan Lal from Gawalmandi in this team who was a very fine central forward player. He died at a very young age before Partition. Spartan Club had the honour of winning Agha Khan Gold Cup at Bombay in 1945. It later on became purely local club.
Dr. Ghosh was another very active patron of hockey. His two sons Eric Ghosh and Kenneth Ghosh were outstanding hockey players. Eric died at a young age in England. Dr. Ghosh and his sons played from Union Freshmen. Ghosh was Bengali and his wife a British. When Union Freshmen finished it became Spartans.
Educational institutions also had an important role in developing the game of hockey in Rawalpindi. My alma mater, Denny’s High School, was on the top in producing many international hockey players.
Naseer Bunda, the famous hockey player, was also from Denny’s High School. He scored the winning goal (the only goal) in Rome Olympics in 1960 against India and we won the very first gold medal in hockey. Naseer Butt was another player from this school. When during Melbourne Olympics in 1956, Anwaar, centre-half of Pakistan’s team, became unfit, Naseer Butt was called in and played that match as centre-half. Later his nephew Gulrez Butt, also from Denny’s High School, played for PIA and also participated in Olympics.
Islamia High School also produced some good hockey players, who were from the city area. They had Lal Muhammad Baksh who later played international hockey. He was a fine right-out. Malik Faiz Baksh, a central-forward player, played neat and clean hockey. He was also a well dressed person.
In Gordon College, hockey was played extensively. The boys left the college after 2 or 4 years after completion of their studies. They did not stay in college for long time. In those days it was an honour to wear Gordon College sports shirt with black eagle. Gordon College hockey team played at University level. Their arch rival was Government Degree College Campbellpur (now Attock). Mudassar Asghar (later Col) was an Olympian from Gordon College. Later he played for PIA also. Other prominent players which I remember were Sheikh Nasim, Shahid Jaffery (later Col), Zulqarnain Haider, Shamim Zahidi, Khawaja Saeed, Khawaja Waheed, Salik Nawaz (later Col), etc.
Later there were many other hockey teams in Rawalpindi. Mahsabeen was hockey team of CCMA (Chief Controller of Military Accounts). Sheikh Rehmat Ullah (Olympian, played in 1948 Olympics), Sheikh Nasim, Yahaya Siddiqui (Left-half) played for Mahsabeen. Rawalpindi Electric Power Company (RepCo) had their own hockey team. They had a hockey ground of their own. RepCo Hockey Ground was behind the Repco office building and Railway line. It is still there but not in a good shape. GHQ Signal Regiment had their own hockey team. Col Manzoor, Maj Ayub Raja played as forwards. Sepoy Fazali was their prominent player. They used to entertain local clubs very nicely. Local Army Regiments in Rawalpindi had their own hockey teams. They used to play with local clubs. Railways had their own ground, near Railway Station Rawalpindi. Railway used to hold athletics also in this ground. Pakistan Railways produced Olympians like, Khawaja Aslam (Centre-half), Habib-ur-Rehman (Centre-forward) and Latif-ur-Rehman (Left-out). They had migrated from India in 1947.
There were many Olympians from Rawalpindi but at present I do not remember all the names. Some of the Plypians from Rawalpindi are; Noor Alam, Sheikh Rehmat Ullaah, Ashfaq Ahmed (known as Fooko), Shahfaat Baghdadi, Naseer Bunda, Riaz Ahmed, Mudasar Asghar, Lala Rashid, Aziz Malik, Rony Gardner, Bashir Ahmed, Aziz Niak, Muhammad Naseeb, Muhammad Amin (known as Chaca Amin), Carman, Gulzar Butt, Gulzar Batta.
Did you find this article interesting? Feel free to share it on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media by using the buttons below.
If it is not inconvenient, please do write a brief comment at the end of this page under the heading “Leave a Reply here”.
You are welcome to contribute nostalgic articles about Rawalpindi by sending to the Editor at: email@example.com