I’m sure you guys are all aware that hockey is Pakistan’s national game. With all the importance and time given to cricket one might be fooled into thinking otherwise, but it is hockey.

And when we talk about hockey in Pakistan we can’t help but mention Sohail Abbas.

What makes Sohail so Great?

Sohail Abbas is a living – and in fact playing – legend of Pakistan hockey. Although he plays as a defender, he is one of the greatest penalty corner specialists and the highest goal scorer in international hockey today.

 The man, Sohail Abbas, is also considered the best short corner expert in world hockey. He has a very strong wrist, a powerful drag flick and a perfected dummy “body dodge” action. He is actually considered the most powerful drag flicker in hockey today. He is immensely accurate with his drag flicks and has a superb conversion rate.

Born on the 9th of June, 1977 in Karachi, Sohail Abbas comes from a family of sportsmen. Although his father was a first class cricketer, it was his uncle Safdar Abbas, the hockey player (a left-winger who scored at the age of 16 against Argentina during the 1973 World Cup), who inspired him.

Sohail has been nominated as the Pakistani candidate for the FIH Player of the Year award in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004.

Sohail’s Rise to Fame

Although he studied at Karachi’s Habib Public School, which has produced several great hockey players, as a young hockey player he had difficulty making an impact on the professional hockey leagues. However, eventually his performance in the 18th Junior National Hockey Under-18 championship in 1995 secured a place for him in Pakistan’s Junior squad.

Sohail Abbas’s next major outing in the field was in the 3rd Junior Asia Cup at Singapore in 1996, after earlier being dropped from the tour of Netherlands, Germany and Poland. Following the Junior Asia Cup he played for the Pakistan Junior side again in 1997. This side went on to beat Germany Junior consecutively in four test matches.

But as fate would have it, four months later Sohail Abbas was dropped again from the Pakistan Junior squad due to which he missed out on the 1997 World Cup staged in Milton Keynes.

However, this stuttering start didn’t stop him and in 1998 Sohail Abbas made his debut in the national team after which there has been no looking back.

His tally of goals in 1998 was 20 but the best was yet to come. In 1999 he set a world record for the most number of goals in a calendar year with 60 goals in total, surpassing Litjens record of 58 goals. The same year Sohail Abbas was the highest goal scorer in:

  1. 8th Pakistan-India Series with 10 goals
  2. 9th Azlan Shah Cup with 12 goals
  3. and the 5th Asia Cup with 16 goals

Another remarkable feat this year was that he scored 7 goals against Sri Lanka making him one of only 9 players that have made double hat-tricks in international matches for Pakistan.

Records, Records and more Records

Sohail has no dearth of records. Here is a list of some of his more prolific records:

  • He is the highest goal scorer in international hockey with 328+ goals
  • He scored the highest number of goals (60) ever in a calendar year in 1999
  • Sohail Abbas was the leading goal scorer at the 2000 Olympic Games in Athens with 11 goals and in the 9th Indo-Pakistan series, with 7 goals
  • He is considered the world’s most consistent drag-flick converter with a success rate over 65%
  • Sohail is also among the seven Pakistani hockey players to be capped more than 200 times in the international hockey circuit
  • He also holds the record for the quickest century of goals and is also the record holder for the fastest double century in international hockey
  • Sohail was the joint highest scorer in the 10th World Cup at Kuala Lumpur where all his 10 goals were scored off penalty corners

Today, Tomorrow and Beyond
Sohail retired in December of 2004 following the Champions Trophy in Lahore at the age of 27, but fortunately in 2006 he came out of retirement.

He was part of the team that received the gold medal at the 2010 Asian Games held in China and just recently it has been announced that he will lead the Pakistan team in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Hockey Tournament 2012 and tour of Europe.

We’re all praying for Sohail Abbas and team Pakistan! God be with you!

(Image Courtesy: Dawn.com)