Pakistan Wins Gold Medal in 1968 Mexico Olympics Men’s Hockey

The 1960 Olympic Gold medal had done wonders for Pakistan men’s hockey team and finally the world had witnessed the arrival of a new champion. Pakistan men’s hockey team followed it up with another victory and Gold medal at the 1968 Mexico Olympics. In the period between 1960 and 1968, several changes took place in Pakistan Hockey and the most important of them all was the coronation of Air Marshal Nur Khan as the president of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) in 1967.

After taking on his new responsibilities, Air Marshal Nur Khan promised the people of Pakistan that he would work hard with the men’s hockey team to ensure that they are able to bring back the 1968 Olympics hockey gold. The statement was made at a time when the team’s graph was spiraling downwards. Pakistan had lost the 1964 Olympic Gold and the 1966 Asian Games Gold to India.

Nur Khan’s first step was to get Manzoor Hussain Atif who became the national team’s manager in January 1968 just 9 months prior to the 1968 Mexico Olympics. This was the first major assignment for Atif who had earlier been the manager of the national team in small tournaments in 1965 and 1966. Pakistan Hockey Federation supported Atif by arranging a tour of Kenya as well as Uganda and also invited Japan to play in Pakistan. Immediately after, a seven-nation hockey festival tournament was inaugurated in Lahore.

As the Pakistan men’s team participated in these international matches, they started gaining more confidence while Atif started his work of building a strong attacking team. He is famous for the courageous decisions he made during this period. During his previous tenure as a manager, he had picked Ashfaq right from the streets who had displayed exceptional abilities in stick work and ball control. Atif went ahead and got Ashfaq back who was sidelined since 1966. The next change was to switch Saeed Anwar from the centre-half position to right-half so that the right trio could perform.

One of his brilliant moves was to conduct Pakistan hockey teams training camp at Lower Topa near the hill station of Murree. This was because Mexico had an altitude of over 7,000 feet above sea level and this helped the team to prepare for the road ahead mentally and physically. The 1968 Olympic started with a bang as Pakistan trounced Netherlands 6-0 as Rasheed Jr got a hat-trick. Then they went on to defeat France 1-0 and Australia 1-2 after trailing by a goal at half-time. They literally routed Argentina 5-0 and defeated Britain 1-2. Pakistan defeated Malaysia 4-0 and Kenya 2-1.

In the semi-final Pakistan was up against a strong West German team and ended up wasting 11 penalty corners. The match went into extra time and then into sudden death where Khalid Mahmood scored with a touch of individual game play and brilliance. The final was extravagant and Pakistan met Australia for the second time and the match was a clash of titans where Pakistan came out as the winners defeating their opponent 2-1.

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