Great hockey player Mohammed Shahid dies at 56

Hockey ShahidNEW DELHI: Mohammed Shahid+ , one of the greatest names in Indian hockey and part of the team that won gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, has died at a Gurgaon hospital owing to a severe liver condition and kidney failure. He was 56.

On June 29, Shahid , whose abilities as a forward during the 1980s marked him out as an exceptional talent, had been admitted to SSL Hospital at Banaras Hindu University with severe stomach pain. With his health deteriorating, he was flown to New Delhi and admitted at Gurgaon’s Medanta Medicity hospital. Three weeks later, on July 20 he passed away.

He is survived by his wife Parveen Shahid and twin children Mohammad Saif and Heena Shahid.

Born on April 14, 1960 in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, Shahid+ burst onto the international hockey scene at the age of 19 in 1979 against France at the Junior World Cup. But it was during a four-nation tournament in Malaysia that he won rave reviews from his captain Vasudev Baskaran – who would lead India at the 1980 Olympics – while leaving the opposing Pakistan players stunned by his mastery.

Shahid’s style of play was based on speed and an ability to dribble the ball with rare wizardry, and it was this aspect of his game which won him fans across the country during the 1980s and revived Indian hockey when interest had started to wane against cricket’s immense popularity following the 1983 World Cup win.

Fellow hockey great Zafar Iqbal, with whom Shahid formed a terrific pair on the hockey field during that decade – in particular at the 1982 and 1986 Asian Games – was distraught at the news. “I am deeply saddened, I have lost one of my closest comrades. We played together for seven years. His contributions to the game are immeasurable,” Zafar, who had visited the ailing Shahid in the hospital, told TOI Sports.

On hearing of the tragic news, India’s goalkeeper and captain for the Rio Olympics PR Sreejesh, who had visited the ailing Shahid last week, was left stunned. “I am speechless. When we visited him, the situation was very critical. It’s a great loss for Indian hokey. Shahid was a living legend who brought hockey to a different level,” he told TOI Sports from Bangalore, where the Indian team is engaged in a 20-day pre-Olympics camp.

Shahid’s former Olympic team-mate MM Somaya remembered a rare player whose partnership on the field with Zafar weaved a majestic tapestry in Indian hockey’s history. “I have been struggling to digest the news of Shahid. Millions who followed him in the 80s have a special spot for him,” Somaya, who played three Olympics with Shahid, said. “Shahid and Zafar were a treat to watch. They were skillful and fast down the left. Zafar’s breakneck pace and Shahid’s dribble and guile gave Indian fans of that era a treasure trove of memories.”

Shahid – who also captained India during the 1985-86 season – received the Arjuna Award in 1981 and was honoured with the Padma Shri in 1986. Since retiring from hockey, the somewhat reclusive Shahid had worked with the Indian railways and was based in his hometown of Varanasi.

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