Jude Felix: 'Each touch of Shahid was like magic'

"In 1980, we felicitated the Indian team which had just won the Olympic gold in Moscow. That year, I watched him play in a training camp at the ASC grounds here. It was magic. I have not seen anyone in India play like him."

Mohammed Shahid of Railways (L) and Fabia Nus Lakra of Bhopal fight for possession of the ball during the National hockey championship.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

An emotional Jude Felix has paid tribute to his departed friend and one-time colleague Mohammed Shahid, claiming India will never see another hockey player of his abilities.

“It's very emotional for me,” Felix told Sportstar on Wednesday. “I was a 15-year-old kid when he came to my school (St. Germain High School) in 1980. We felicitated the Indian team which had just won the Olympic gold in Moscow. That year, I watched him play in a training camp at the ASC grounds here. It was magic. Each touch of his was simply magic. I have not seen anyone in India play like him.”

The two were teammates, first for Railways in 1984, and later the national side till the end of the Seoul Olympics in 1988. “Normally, when you have two players playing in the same position (left-inside), there is a certain bit of rivalry, but there was no such thing here,” Felix said. “He respected me and I was overjoyed to be playing with him. I'm proud and humbled that I actually played in his position.”

In retirement, the pair continued to keep in touch. “He calls me two years ago and says: 'Jude, can you help me buy a door handle for my car?' So I called up the factory in Chennai and managed to arrange for the part and send it to him. He was the happiest guy in the world,” Felix recalled, laughing. “That's how close we were. The last I met him was this January in Varanasi. We caught up in his office. We had a lovely time. It's a sad day for Indian hockey. No way there can be another like him.”

Meanwhile, Allen Schofield, who was part of the Indian side at the 1980 Olympic Games alongside Shahid, hailed the latter's skills on the ball. “He was lightning fast; you couldn't even see the turn of the stick,” he said. “I remember one of our coaches stopping a game and calling him aside. 'Give me your stick,' he said, just for fun. 'I want to check if there is glue at the end.'”