LAHORE: 1st June marks the third death anniversary of Pakistan hockey’s legendary full-back Munir Dar. Three years back that day, the writer was in Holland with the Dar Hockey Academy, a brainchild of Munir himself. Dar HA was about to play the opening match of its 2011 European tour. As the sad news arrived, the academy officials wanted to cancel the match but Munir’s son Taqueer, the Dar HA president, advised from Pakistan to fulfill the commitment. The academy played the match wearing black arm bands and before the start of the match a one minute silence was observed in the memory of the departed legend. Munir lived a remarkable life - an envy of everyone.
Born in 1936 in Amritsar, the young Munir moved to Lahore in 1947. At his new home, he found a hockey stick and the life-long love affair started. Blessed with a very athletic and strong physique, Munir displayed all the attributes of a solid defender at the right full-back position. Moreover, he was a wonderful striker of the penalty corners. His talent further flourished after joining the famed Government College Lahore. All this meant, he was soon on the radar of the national selectors and the 19-year-old Munir earned a spot for the 1956 Olympics.
At those Melbourne Games, Pakistan won their first ever Olympic medal in any discipline - silver. Young Munir’s display in the final was memorable. There was no looking back. Munir created sensation at the 1958 Asian Games. Against South Korea, who had made headlines by restricting India, the undisputed kings of hockey at the time to a 2-1 victory, Munir successfully converted as many as five successive penalty corners - a feat never done in international hockey before and only equalled twice since then. In fact, Munir’s goals against Korea made all the difference.
The hockey tournament of the 1958 Asiad was played only on a single league. The Pakistan-India match ended scoreless and the two sides finished with equal points. Pakistan won the gold on goal difference mainly due to their big victory against the Koreans.
Two years later, Munir again figured in Pakistan’s first ever gold medal victory at the 1960 Olympics ending India’s 32-year hegemony. He remained Pakistan’s first choice until his retirement after the 1966 Asian Games when he had the honour of captaining the national side. In three Olympic appearances, he garnered one gold and two silvers. In as many appearances at the Asian Games, Munir’s medal cabinet showed two golds and one silver.
Before his exit from the international scene, Munir had already groomed his younger brother Tanvir to be his successor. Tanvir, also a right fullback, was a member of the 1968 Olympic gold medal winning team. He also reigned supreme at the inaugural World Cup in 1971 where he was tournament’s top scorer with eight goals for the victorious Pakistan side.
The Dar success story continued and Munir’s eldest son Taqueer completed the unique family treble when he figured in the Pakistan team which won the country’s third Olympic gold medal in 1984. Munir also coached Pakistan’s senior and junior national sides in 70s and 80s.
Hockey was just one part of Munir’s multi-faceted personality. An avid horse racer with an eye for horses, his stable won a number of races at the Lahore race club. The interest in sports was not confined to hockey. Munir was the founder president of the Pakistan Karate Federation (PKF) and also served at the executive committee of the Pakistan Rugby Federation. A police officer by profession, he was the chairman of the Police Sports Board from 1985 to 1995. His tenure is remembered as the golden decade of the police sports. The policemen won laurels not only at the national level but also made Pakistan proud at the Asian and World levels. At the 1990 Asian Games, Ghulam Abbas won an athletics gold for Pakistan after 16 years - no one has won since. Bodybuilders Yahya Butt and Mansoor Butt won the Mr Asia title. The Pakistan volleyball team had a great run from late 80s to mid-90s when they were a potent force at the Asian level. A number of policemen featured regularly in the national line-ups during that period. Dar was instrumental in raising the Asian style kabaddi team of police. Again, quite a few members of the police squad represented Pakistan’s national squads which won medals at the Asiads.
Coming to his own discipline of hockey, under Munir’s direct supervision, the Police team won the National Championships in 1993 for only the second time; the first was way back in 1960 when Munir himself was a member of the team. The year of 1994 saw Pakistan hockey’s last hurrah at the global stage. The greenshirts won the World Cup after 12 years and the Champions Trophy after 14 years. The police team provided five players in the national outfits for the two tournaments, more than any other department.
He was greatly depressed to see the continuous decline of Pakistan hockey. On Munir’s suggestion, son Taqueer established Dar Hockey Academy in late 2006 to nurture the young talent. Within a few years, the Dar HA has become the greatest reservoir of hockey talent in the country with its boys regularly featuring in all the Pakistani national sides, senior and junior. A very bold and vocal personality, he never hesitated in calling spade a spade and was much feared by the incompetent and failed sport administrators of the country who often received Munir’s wrath. Munir was an institution in himself.
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