It runs in the family

Air India striker Affan Yousuf with the ‘Best Player’ trophy.-

Former India forward Sameer Dad and his nephew Affan Yousuf stole the show in Air India’s triumph in the Hockey India Senior National Championship recently.

Two stunning goals in the final by Air India Sports Promotion Board’s Affan Yousuf sealed the ‘Best Player’ award in his favour in the 3rd Hockey India Senior National Championship recently. It also underlined the importance of creating the right environment for talent to blossom.

Affan’s uncle and team-mate, Sameer Dad, explained: “This was Affan’s first Senior Nationals. He was with Indian Oil, but did not get a chance in the main squad and spent time sitting on the bench. I convinced him to join our team and show his goal-scoring ability. Nobody knows a player’s value until he gets a first-team look in. He represented Bhopal before as a junior, but by playing for Air India he got noticed.”

Sameer, a former India forward, and Affan scored four of the six goals for Air India, which defeated Punjab 6-2 in the final at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium in Pimpri (Pune). Sameer deflected in Air India’s first goal and then fired home his team’s third goal from an acute angle. Affan scored the second and fourth goals — the first a cracking backhander that stunned the experienced Punjab goalkeeper Baljit Singh and the second, a neatly executed one through a crowded defence.

Affan’s father Mohammed Yousuf was a left-winger for India. “We belong to a family of forwards,” explained Sameer. “My dad played in the forward line and with so many hockey players in the family, Affan switched from football to hockey.”

Both uncle and nephew, aged 34 and 19 respectively, had played in the same squad, the Bhopal Badshahs, in World Series Hockey. Pune 2013 marked their first Senior Nationals together for Air India.

Affan popped up instinctively in the gaps created by the shifting defenders and was quick to make up his mind about the next course of action when the ball arrived.

Punjab tried to throw Air India off its rhythm by committing fouls and abusing the rival players. “I was angry with their language and the way they charged at us,” said Sameer.

However, Air India won convincingly, helped largely by the young Affan who played like a seasoned striker.

THE RESULTS

Final: Air India 6 (Sameer Dad 2, Affan Yousuf 2, Joga Singh, Pradhan Somanna) beat Hockey Punjab 2 (Deepak Thakur 2). Third place: Hockey Karnataka 3 (Poonacha, Nitin Thimmaiah, S. K. Uthappa) beat Hockey Haryana 2 (Damandeep Singh, Yudhvir).

Individual prizes — Best Defender: Vikas Sharma; Best Forward: Nikkin Thimmaiah; Best Goalkeeper: Adrian D’Souza; Player of Tournament: Affan Yousuf.

Nandakumar Marar