The ace Pakistan player was part of the gold-winning 1990 Beijing Asian Games team besides being a member of the victorious 1994 Champions Trophy team in their own backyard (in Lahore).
The talented Green Shirts player featured in 235 internationals and scored around 130 goals. He played in three Olympics (1988, 1992 and 1996) and as well as in three World Cups (1990, 1994 and 1998).
Tahir has also played in the coveted Champions Trophy on numerous occasions (1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998).
He also captained the Pakistan side in 1998 – he skippered the national outfit till the end of the 1998 Utrecht World Cup.
Now as coach of the Green Shirts, Tahir has an arduous task of helping his side win the 9th Asia Cup and seal a 2014 World Cup berth. He speaks to Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview.
Yes, it is indeed a matter of sadness for Asian hockey. But at the same time it is a very valid question for sub-continent hockey federations as to whether we are really working in the right direction to bring the glory days of Asian hockey back. How long we will keep carrying out ad-hoc type arrangements and look for the so-called shortcuts to achieve success on a temporary basis. I think it’s a big question and a matter of shame for all of us that Asian hockey is in the doldrums – whoever is related to hockey should honestly think whether we are really contributing enough to uplift the hockey standards in the region.
Q You served as the consultant of the Pakistan men’s hockey team during the Hockey World League Round 3 event in Johor Bahru, but now you have now taken over as coach replacing Hanif Khan for the Asia Cup. Is there pressure on you to deliver?
Yes, there is huge pressure taking over the reins of the national team in such circumstances – it is a very short time for any coach to produce best results but I’m trying my best, I’m quite confident about our players performing much better then what they have delivered during the Johar Bahru event. I believe we have a very good team which can win the Asia Cup provided we as a team deliver our 100% hockey, especially in crucial matches.
I think the Indian team is a pretty well balanced side, it has got a nice blend of young talented players and some experienced players as well. Overall, they are a good team but very much beatable (grins).
I have been repeatedly saying that foreign coaches are not the solution for Pakistan and Indian hockey – we need to educate and upgrade the knowledge of our own coaches and provide them the same benefits, authority and command, which we dole out to foreign coaches. I’m sure that our coaches can produce much better results going forward as we are all aware of this truth that there is no shortcut to success in this competitive world. Of course, we may need foreign expertise to help our coaches upgrade their knowledge, which is the need of the hour.
Q Roelant Oltmans had coached the Pakistan men’s hockey team in the past. He is now the Indian head coach – what do you think about his coaching skills?
Roelant is a very experienced and knowledgeable coach. The experience he had by working with the Pakistan team, will help him in his coaching assignment in India, especially in team handling off the field.
Q Do you think that only a solitary representation from Asia so far in the 2014 World Cup indicates the declining standards of Asian hockey playing nations?
It’s crystal clear – we (hockey federations in Asia) really need to pull our socks in all departments to raise the standards of Asian hockey.
Q Tell us a bit about the 1994 World Cup which Pakistan won – you played despite losing our father during the tournament?
Ahhh, it was the 1994 World Cup in Sydney, where I played despite losing my father during that tournament. I heard this sad news just before our first match, but my family informed me quite late, and there was no time left to attend my father's funeral. So I decided to stay with the team and play the World Cup matches carrying my personal grief because the time when I left Pakistan for the World Cup my father told me that he will feel proud of me, if we win the World Cup. Those words of my father were still ringing in my ears, so when I heard this sad news, I decided to go all out to fulfill my father's desire … I can't say anything more about this.
Q What are your biggest moments as a player for Pakistan?
Of course, winning the 1994 World Cup in Sydney is the biggest moment of my playing career. Nothing can be bigger than winning the World Cup.
Yes, I think so. Both countries should regularly play Test matches, which can be a good vehicle to promote hockey in the sub-continent. Such Test matches will always prove beneficial for players of both countries and can also help to improve their psychological strength.
I think it is good for the league’s promotion to have Pakistani players and even coaches – it can create an extra excitement for hockey lovers of both countries, and also increase television viewers across the globe.
Well, politics in players’ selection has been in practice more in the past, but nowadays, there might more to do with a coach’s liking or disliking of a particular player while picking the national side. I believe no coach in this world wants to have any less skillful or bad player in his team because that player will bring a bad report for the coach. So I’m of the opinion that every coach always wants to have the most deserving and best available players in his team.