sPorts are an essential part of the routine of soldiers all over the world, not only for physical fitness but also for instilling a competitive spirit among them. The officers and men of the Pakistan Army have excelled in many sports and brought glories to the country.
Speaking of our national game of hockey, the contribution of the armed forces in this part of the world dates back to the pre-partition days.
Col AIS Dara was a member of the gold medal winning British India team at the 1936 Olympic Games. He later captained Pakistan in their Olympic debut in 1948. The early major successes of Pakistan hockey owed much to players from the army. Two names stand out. Brigadier General Hamidi, who played in four Olympics (most recently captaining Pakistan’s first gold medal-winning team in 1960). Brigadier Mohtif also appeared in four Olympics (1952-1964, when he was captain of the side). Both of them later served Pakistan Hockey in the roles of National Team Manager as well as Secretary of the Pakistan Hockey Federation. Atif in particular achieved great laurels: Pakistan’s national team won gold medals at the 1968 and 1984 Olympics as well as the 1982 World Cup.
Hockey is widely played among the armed forces at all levels. Most of the Pakistan Army units have their own hockey teams. Upstairs, tournaments between brigades and tournaments between teams and teams are held regularly.
Recently, a hockey stadium has been built in Lahore Camp. Manzoorul Hassan Hockey Stadium is named after one of the greatest hockey players of Pakistan.
The writer contacted Mansour Al-Hassan to congratulate him on this honor. He said: Please visit the stadium. Someone was dumbfounded – not a stadium, but a hockey complex spread over a very large area. There is a main pitch as well as a small pitch with both artificial turf and floodlights. The smaller floor is for individual training such as flicks, drag kicks, penalty kicks, goal keeping etc.
There are international standard changing rooms for players, media room, office, VIP lounge, car parking, etc. Good seating facilities for spectators: currently it can seat around 1,000 people with more to come. The Hockey Academy building has also been completed within the premises which is also an excellent facility with gymnasium, recreation room, dining room, kitchen etc. It can accommodate 25 to 30 boys.
The legendary right back Mansoor Al Hasan played for Pakistan from 1973 to 1982 and was also the captain of the national team. One of the best defenders the world has seen, the Great Wall was also an excellent penalty taker and scored over 100 international goals. During his illustrious career he won Gold at the World Cup (1982), Asian Games (1974, 1978 and 1982) and Asian Cup (1982), Silver (1975 World Cup) and Bronze (1976 Olympics). He also coached the national team (1988-1991) and (1995-1996): silver (1990 World Cup) and gold (1989 Asian Cup and 1990 Asian Games).
“Currently I am living a retired life in Lahore Cantonment. In late 2020, the Lahore Army Team Captain approached me with a request to train his team for the Army Team Championship. I readily agreed and supervised the training for more than three months. The Lahore Army Hockey Corps team won the Army Championship.”
During this period Mansoor Al Hasan felt the need for a suitable hockey field with artificial turf in the Lahore camp.
“The team could only train on the artificial turf available at the National Hockey Stadium and Johar Town Stadium. It was very difficult to get time because the local clubs and academies already had slots. Then there were the camps for the national teams.”
His proposal was appreciated, but a suitable venue had to be suggested.
“Here I have to mention Brigadier General Tahir Butt, ex-hockey player who also attended the junior camp in Pakistan. He was appointed to Lahore at that time and played a major role in persuading the powers that be and also in selecting the suitable location. It is situated on the main road which passes through a key part of Both the city and the assembly, it is also very close to the Ayub multi-purpose stadium.The Corps Commander Lahore, Lt. Gen. Abdul Aziz, agreed and referred the proposal to COAS, who approved it.”
Work began in February of this year and ended in October. Usually, such formations in camps are named after the officers and men of the armed forces.
“I was very humbled and honored when, at the closing ceremony of the COAS Club Championship in July, General Qamar Bajwa announced that the new stadium would be named after me.”
He has ambitious plans related to Mansour Al-Hassan Stadium.
For the academy, in the first phase, 70-80 boys under the age of 18 from all over Pakistan will be polled. The selectors will hold trials in a number of places, starting in the North. To ensure maximum participation of ambitious youth, the exercise will not be limited to provincial capitals. Trials are also planned in other cities, large and small, especially those with a rich hockey tradition.
After that, another selection committee will look at the youngsters over the three days of final testing in Lahore.
Finally, 25-30 boys will be selected into the academy. They will be provided with housing, housing, a monthly salary and free education in army schools.
Divisional Commander Lahore is ex officio Chief of Defense Housing Authority Lahore. DHA-Lahore will bear most of the stadium’s operating expenses as well as the academy’s. The academy team will participate in local tournaments under the name Defense Hockey Club.
Many of the country’s hockey facilities have deteriorated not only due to poor maintenance but also due to lack of use, a reflection of waning public interest in hockey.
“The resources of the IV Corps as well as those of the DHA will be available. So maintenance won’t be a problem. It must be a busy hockey centre. The boys will work at the academy almost every day. Then the army unit teams in Lahore will use this facility. Training camps will be held for the cadets. Army Schools.We have already planned to hold a tournament in November/December featuring the eight best academies in the country.You will be surprised to know that apart from the National Hockey Stadium, this is the only facility in Lahore that fulfills all the requirements for holding official international matches.Holding international events in The future is very possible.”
Manzoorul Hassan Hockey Stadium is the gift of Pakistan Army in our national game. Among the best hockey facilities in the country, it promises to play a major role in revitalizing hockey in the second largest city in the country especially in its mega camp. And the academy can become a source of quality players for the national team.