Shahabuddin Chaklader is the proud captain of Bangladesh during their first Asia Cup hockey on home soil 1985. With another Asia Cup is around the corner in Dhaka, Chaklader, a retired army major, shared his memory of the tournament with New Age’s Sudipta Ananda.
Q: Bangladesh will host the Asia Cup again after 32 years. You were the captain in 1985 when the country hosted the tournament last time. How do you feel now?
Chaklader: At present hockey is struggling to attract spectators but when we played 40,000 came to watch our game. Now cricket overtook us. Thousands of people go to the stadium to support the cricket team. When you get huge support from spectators the game naturally get improves. The year 1985 was one of the crucial years for Bangladesh hockey. We made the game popular. The tournament created a big hype among the young generation. I hope a similar hype will be created this time. But one thing I want to add. The federation made so much experiment with the current team. They first suspended Jimmy (Russell Mahmud) but later they awarded him the captaincy, I don’t know why? A few days ago I saw in a newspaper report that federation was thinking to bring a foreign coach but later they had to change their mind due to lack of fund. The thought of bringing a foreign coach just a few days before the meet must have affected the team because the players might think that they were going to get a new coach in place of existing coach Mahbub Harun. The federation showed a negative attitude towards Harun, which might affect the players.
Q: Bangladesh made a flying start in 1985 Asia Cup beating Iran 3-1. How much you remember the game?
Chaklader: You cannot change the first impression. In 1985 Asia Cup we played our first match against Iran and we dominated the game fully. We won the match 3-1 but we could have won the match by at least six or seven goals margin. We didn’t give full effort only to give Jumman [Lusai] a chance to complete his hat-trick. I requested Kismat [Kamrul Islam] and Tisha [Salahuddin Chowdhury] not to score after Jumman stuck first two goals and finally he got a permanent place in country’s hockey history by completing his maiden hat-trick for the country. Actually, that sort of performance boosted our confidence for the rest of the matches.
Q: In 1985 Bangladesh put a brilliant effort against Pakistan only to concede a late goal. What is your memory of the game?
Chaklader: Before the Pakistan match some federation officials came to my hotel room and told me not to concede more than five goals. Five goals would be accepted. I thought the same message was conveyed to all. I immediately went to each room and tried to motivate my team-mates. I went to Abdullah Piru [youngest member of the squad] and told him, we didn’t see the liberation war. Tomorrow will be your liberation war. Fight for the country. What Piru did later was outstanding. He didn’t give a single chance to Pakistan’s star forward Kalimullah. I went to Jumman Lusai’s room and said tomorrow Hasan Sardar [another famous player of Pakistan team] will destroy you. He will not give you any chance. Jumman said guru you will see what I will do tomorrow. Jumman led the attacking third and dominated the whole match. The goal we conceded in the last two minutes was an accident because we dominated the game fully. I like the share another memory. One day I was sitting in the lobby of Purbani Hotel. A few minutes later I saw one of our players Khwaja Daniel was leaving the hotel wearing formal dress. I called him and asked where he was going? He told me that he was going to the Sonargoan Hotel to see the Pakistani players. Pakistan came into the tournament fresh from winning the Olympic medal. I told him, we will not leave the hotel to see the Pakistani player. He was surprised and asked me why I was unwilling to allow him going to Pakistan team hotel? I explained to him that they were our opponents in the tournament. So, we have to treat them as a rival before the match. We are not a fan of them for certain period. Did we see any Pakistani player coming to our hotel? So, why we would do that? Daniel realised his mistake and didn’t go to Pakistan team hotel. I actually did it only to motivate the team and everybody knew what the outcome was.
Q: You lost some of your team-mates. Some are now living in abroad. How do you remember them?
Chaklader: Firstly I want to remember Jumman, Kanchan [Jashimuddin], Malek Chunnu and our manager Sabbir Bhai because we lost them. When they were alive we met each other on different occasions. Jumman and Kanchan often came to my place. Tisha [Salahuddin], who is now in abroad, often joined them we spent hours recalling our memories. We became close friends after 1985 Asia Cup. We had a huge bonding for each other.
Q: Any other interesting memory of 1985 Asia Cup?
Chaklader: One day my wife came to Hotel Purbani to visit me. There was a rule not to allow any women in the team hotel which somehow my wife didn’t know. When she wanted to meet me duty officers of hotel halted her and said women are not allowed. When she said captain Chaklader is my husband, those police men said, every woman was telling the same thing. We do not have order to allow you. My wife became angry and returned to home and blasted me why allowed so many girls in my room? Hearing such words I became nervous and tried to convince her. But she was not convinced with my telephone conversation. I told the whole thing to the federation president [Major General Abdul Matin] and he gave me permission go to my home to convince my wife. I went to my home and took her to the hotel to prove my innocence and finally, she was convinced.
Q: You lost against Malaysia by a 0-5 margin, which seemed unusual considering your previous performances.
Chaklader: It was my worst ever memory in my life. I like to share one thing today. Trust me please – we were not that bad to concede five goals against Malaysia. We lost the game badly because the surface was muddy. Pratap Sangker Hazra [former hockey player and chairman of the grounds committee in the Asia Cup] did the conspiracy. He made the field wet by pouring water to make our job difficult. Pratap did it out of vengeance because somehow he had lost his post as manager just before the tournament.
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