1990: A very, very hostile crowd

A first person account of the 1990 hockey World Cup:

The Netherlands had the best team among the participating nations and deservedly won the title.   -  THE HINDU photo library

We knew what to expect in Lahore, but what really happened was beyond comprehension. How could sports lovers be so hostile? I was shocked and so was the team. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. Without trying to find excuses, I must say that the incidents had a huge impact on our performance.

True, we ended up 10th in a field of 12, but then we were not as bad as the end result portrays. We should have been among the top six. Even our critics then had a similar opinion. But Lahore was a nightmare. 

The incidents of stone-throwing at us, even inside the stadium, demoralised the team. The atmosphere was terrible and obviously hockey was not the priority for those who came to watch our matches. They clearly had an agenda to disturb us and they did succeed in their designs.

The team was disturbed and could not give its best. I have never seen such inimical audience as we encountered in Lahore. The anti-India sentiment was rampant, and we did not have a single supporter in or outside the venue. 

There were strict security measures and that itself hampered our approach and it played at the back of our minds when we took the field.

At one point, we had to leave the field during a match and the Team Director was so furious that he came up to me and offered to stop the event. Honestly, I thought it would bring a bad name to the game. We were all of the opinion that Asia was hosting a World Cup and it should not suffer because of some unruly elements. It was tough to convince the players, but we did return to the field.

We had a good team, but the boys were scared. I must admit that it was not easy to keep them motivated. Not everyone has the psyche to remain strong when attacked and here it was clear that no one in Pakistan wanted us to play and win. 

I spoke to each player individually, tried my best to help him shed the fear of being hurt, but the atmosphere had been spoilt already. The boys were just looking forward to finishing the tournament and returning home. Our only consolation was the award of the Fair Play Trophy by the FIH for the fortitude we showed in continuing with the game before a very, very hostile crowd.

On the competition front, the tournament was very good. Holland was clearly the best team and it had done its homework well.

Total TeamsMatches PlayedGoals ScoredWinnerRunner-upThird placeIndia's position
1242147NetherlandsPakistanAustralia10th