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Hockey Flashbacks: The first-ever Men's Hockey World Cup held in 1971

FIH Hockey World Cup 1971: The first ever edition
FIH Hockey World Cup 1971: The first ever edition
Modified 10 Nov 2018

The much-awaited Men's Hockey World Cup is returning to Indian soil for the third time, this time it's Bhubaneswar who is organizing the mega hockey fest. With this, India has also attained the record for hosting the most editions of any Men's Field Hockey World Cup and is all set to end their long-held medal drought of 43 years in this edition.

However, much as this is being touted as the return of the hockey superpower that India was once, this World Cup ironically, was never the Indian brainchild. Air Vice Marshal of Pakistan, Nur Khan first proposed this tournament to the FIH, the world body for field hockey.

Before that, there was no official world championship. Winning a gold medal at the Summer Olympics was considered as winning the world championships, and hence, the Olympic champions were also known as the world champions.

However, with the FIH Hockey World Cup, the status of world championship had now formalized. Riding on the success of the Mexico Olympics, Pakistan now looked all set to be crowned as the first official world champion of field hockey.

Shifting of venues

FIH Hockey World Cup 1971: Initially planned for Pakistan, but shifted to Spain
FIH Hockey World Cup 1971: Initially planned for Pakistan, but shifted to Spain

The first official FIH Field Hockey World Cup for men was scheduled to be held in the creator's homeland, i.e. Pakistan.

However, the brutal exposure of Pakistan's barbarism in Operation Searchlight, followed by political tension between neighbours and classic hockey rivals India and Pakistan forced FIH to take the matters into their own hands, and the venue was shifted to Barcelona in Spain.

The first Hockey World Cup was an invitational tournament, where 10 teams participated.


India at the World Cup: Strong start fails to convert into a golden victory

India at FIH Hockey World Cup 1971: So near, yet so far!
India at FIH Hockey World Cup 1971: So near, yet so far!

Following their first ever debacle at the Mexico Olympics, a distraught India looked to regain ground through this tournament.

The Indian team performed admirably well, winning all their league matches, though by slender margins. They entered the semifinals on an impressive clean slate, having not conceded a single goal to the rivals in the four matches that they played.

However, they failed to sustain the momentum when they met arch-rivals Pakistan in the semifinals, and despite an early lead, they lost the match 2-1. Once again the team, led by Ajit Pal Singh had to settle for a bronze, as they pummeled Kenya 2-1 after extra time to clinch the bronze medal.

Pakistan: The creators become the champions!

Pakistan, on the other hand, romped home with their maiden World Cup, defeating hosts Spain 1-0 in the finals. The ones who created the World Cup were now taking the coveted championship back home, and since then they have gone on to become the most successful champions of this tournament, having won the tournament a record 4 times.

Published 10 Nov 2018, 20:27 IST
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