I have played along side Mohammad Shahid for nine years in international hockey covering the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, 1984 in Los Angeles, 1988 in Seoul. It is a great shock and loss for me personally.I remember him as the most gifted and talented player in our times. People in large numbers would throng to just watch him play. We already had a good team but it had a special significance because of Shahid. He had that dribbling skills and would do that at a very top speed.In the 1980 and ’84 Olympics, Zafar Iqbal would play as a left winger, Shahid as a left inner and Merwyn Fernandes at the right. They were the main players and a potent force of our team that would make the game very fast. Shahid’s ball control was superb and had a mastery in dribbling that was appreciated world over by hockey fans.Talking about his dribbling, he was short but very quick. He could dribble and turn the ball at a top speed and the defenders had little clue about it. He would catch the defenders on the wrong foot all the time. In fact, he could dribble in small areas. Despite a crowd of four to five people, he would still weave his way through. That’s what was his strength.He used to be a handful for the Europeans who were supposed to be good defenders. He would weave through them despite being small in size against the people larger and bigger than him.Off the field, he was full of fun. He had a lot of friends and would always be in a cheerful mood. He would enjoy life outside the field and would not take things too seriously.He was such a fun guy that he would volunteer to sing during various functions. He was that sort of a guy who would go out of his way to make friends with people. Just like like his dribbling skills, he would speak and walk fast and we used to tease him for the same – ‘That your talking and walking skills are similar to your dribbling skills’. He was a great friend and we will really miss him.Shahid was right up there – once in a generation player and amongst the legends.His life was quite sorted. He was doing fairly well, he had a good job with the Railways and a good family in Varanasi. He hardly came out out and was confined to his birth place.He was one of the legends of Indian hockey and the greatest dribblers that the game will ever see. It was through his own hard work that he came up the ranks. He was in Sports Hostel, Lucknow, but he was on his own. He would personally train hard and excel in certain skills. This aspect stuck with him throughout his career. This is the message to the youngsters – if you want to excel and specialise in certain activities, work hard and do a lot of personal training.At the Moscow Games, Shahid was one of the key players. It was his second year in international hockey and he made a lasting impression at a very early age. He made a mark and was able to establish himself as a star.His strong character was seen when he lost his a newborn in 1987-88. He was able to come out of the tragedy and still have a good life. It was one of the biggest setbacks in his personal life, something he withstood and fought hard. This only suggested how strong he was from within.It would be difficult to compare generations, but we played on AstroTurf. The game is more attacking now. Given the current rules, Shahid would have been an asset even today. Just as as impressive and a great legend that he was then, he would have been the same legend.RIP, Shahid!
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