Hockey is one of the most popular sports in Pakistan. The period between 1956 and 1984 was a golden era in Pakistan Hockey. During this period, the Pakistan Hockey team tasted World Cup victories, victories in the Champions Trophy and a gold medal in the Olympics. Great players like Tanvir Dar and Abdul Rasool were key contributors to the success of the Pakistan Hockey team during this golden period.
The 1971 Hockey World Cup was hosted by Spain. The Real Club de Polo in Barcelona was the venue for the event. The event was conducted between the 15th and 24th of October. Ten nations participated in the tournament. Pakistan was in Pool B along with Hockey superpowers Australia and the Netherlands. Pakistan had gone into the World Cup of 1971 as the reigning Olympic and Asian Games champions. But they had a rather indifferent time in the league phase. They drew with the Netherlands, lost to Spain and beat Japan by just one goal. The solitary goal was scored by the incomparable Tanvir Dar, who later went on to score 8 goals in the tournament, which made him the top goal scorer of the 1971 World Cup. Arch-rivals India managed to stay unbeaten in the league phase. Pakistan took a rather fortuitous route to the semi-finals. The Pakistan team reached the semi-finals after a lot of high drama and tension in the last pool game between Japan and the Netherlands.
If Netherlands won the match, they would go to the semi-finals, shutting out Pakistan. If there game ended in a draw, Pakistan would have to wait till the Australia-Spain match to know its fate. If Japan won the match, which was a highly unlikely prospect, Pakistan would enter the semi-finals. The entire Pakistan team was present during the match. They gave tips and advice to the Japanese. The unthinkable happened during the match. The Dutch had plenty of penalty corners, but couldn’t take advantage of any of them. Incredibly enough, the only goal in the match was scored by Japan off a penalty corner. The Pakistan team exulted and congratulated the Japanese. They gave the Japanese players Pakistan-made Hockey sticks as a token of their appreciation.
Pakistan had to take on arch-rivals India in the semi-finals. India was on top form. The first goal was scored by India and then Rashid scored the equalizer for Pakistan. The goal that vaulted Pakistan into the finals came off the stick of Munnawar, who hit the roof of the Indian goalpost. The Indians protested, but the umpire allowed the goal.
In the finals, Pakistan took on Spain. The final match was played at a rapid pace. The winning goal was scored by Kantar, off a superb penalty corner. Pakistan ended up winning the inaugural edition of the Hockey World Cup. The team had achieved the classic triple in Hockey – Olympic gold in 1968, Asian Games gold in 1970 and the World Cup triumph in 1971.