India mourns the death of a hockey legend

Sportspersons, past and present, took to the social media to express grief over the demise of Mohammad Shahid. Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to the hockey legend, saying the country has lost a talented sportsman.

Mohammed Shahid, 56, died on Wednesday due to a multiple organ failure.

It wasn't the way he would have liked to go. Padma Shri Mohammad Shahid, dribbler par excellence and 'partner' to everyone he met, passed away at a city hospital on Wednesday after weeks of struggle with liver and kidney issues. He is survived by wife, a son and a daughter.

Shahid, 56, had been put on life support late on Monday night after he slipped into coma. He never recovered from it. Former team-mate and close friend Zafar Iqbal, who had been at his side all through the three weeks in hospital – along with another team-mate M.K. Kaushik — was unable to control his emotions.





“In our last conversation at the hospital he said, 'don't worry partner, I will dodge this also.' I told him 'yes you have dodged many feared opponents, this will also pass.' He tried to speak more but couldn't. Those were his last words,” Zafar, eyes welled up, said even as he tried to console Shahid's wife Parveen.

Zafar and Shahid were part of the magical trinity up front that also included Merwyn Fernandes and was considered perhaps the finest ever in Indian hockey and among the best in the world. “We played together from 1979 to 1988. There was an incredible understanding between us. At times, I would even forget to chase the ball, so mesmerised I would be, watching his skills. It's a shocker that he is no more,” Fernandes said.





Shahid had been hospitalised and shifted from Varanasi after he was afflicted with jaundice and dengue even as his kidneys and liver began to fail. Initial reports had been encouraging before things became worse. His son Saif and daughter Heena were at his side when he breathed his last.

For someone who could single-handedly destroy the opposition, Shahid was hugely popular among the opponents too. Pakistan legend Shahbaz Ahmad, himself considered the most magical of all hockey players ever, remembers picking up skills from Shahid.

“We played a lot against each other but also occasionally in the same team. The kind of art and skill he possessed was mind-blowing. I started playing when he was at his peak and I am blessed to have seen him play. The vision and stickwork he possessed was beyond human abilities. He was God's gift.





“But more than playing against him, it was playing with him as part of the Asian All-Stars team that I enjoyed more. I learnt a lot from him then as we beat everyone else hands down. And yet, with all the magic he had, he was one of the most courteous, decent human being I knew,” Shahbaz said from Lahore.

He was not the only one from across the border to miss Shahid. The legendary Hassan Sardar remembered how the Pakistan team used to plan for Shahid, and everyone else, in that order. “Not just us. We used to talk to players from across the world and all teams had a similar gameplan – block Shahid and you can win. And yet, all the plans, more often than not, would fall apart in the face of his skills,” a sombre Sardar said.





Halfway across the world, Australian Ric Charlesworth had similar memories. “He was one of the most wonderful, skillful and mesmerizing players I've ever played against. Shahid's ability to create something out of nothing was amazing. With him around we never knew what to expect. You would think he was going one way but he would change course before you knew it,” Charlesworth said.

Joaquim Carvalho, often Shahid's room mate on tours, found it hard to digest that his friend was no more. “For the last couple of days, all of us from the 1980 batch had been in touch, updating ourselves on his condition through the people present in Delhi. We knew the synopsis was not good but it still is a shocker and very depressing,” Carvalho said.

“He was always so immaculate in his dressing and everything in his life. His kit bag used to be one of the tidiest and his playing kit seemed to come from the drycleaners! For a match at five in the evening, he would be ready by one and then spend the next few hours dribbling around the room, preparing for the game, planning for the opposition. There can never be another Shahid again,” he added.

Tributes poured in from all quarters, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as #MohammedShahid started trending on Twitter early in the morning and stayed among the top all day. SAI coach and friend A.K. Bansal accompanied the body to the airport to take care of formalities.

Zafar, who stayed with the family even after the body had been taken away – it is being transported back to his beloved city of Banaras with the burial scheduled for Thursday afternoon – preferred to remember the good times with his 'partner'.

“All we had to do was give the ball to him and enjoy the magic. At times it was frustrating because we hardly got the ball but as team mates, we had the best seats in the house and watching his skills made up for everything,” he said.