Boost to hockey, says Zafar Iqbal

Zafar Iqbal is a happy man. One of the recipients of the Padma Shri award, the former Indian hockey captain and coach is happy to see hockey getting recognised in the country.

Part of the 1980 team that won the last Olympic Gold Medal for India, he captained the country in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and the 1982 Asian Games, where we won silver.

A qualified civil engineer from Aligarh Muslim University, he still contributes to Indian hockey, now as the selector of the national team. In a telephonic chat, Zafar Iqbal spoke to’s Nishad Vellur on the Padma Shri, current status of Indian hockey and more....

How do you feel after winning the Padma Shri award?

It is a great feeling. This is a great achievement for me as an individual. At the same time, the award is good for the game of hockey. I am very pleased to see hockey getting recognition.

Do you think the award has come to you rather late?

Not at all. I don’t think so. It is up to the government to decide on the timing of the awards. For me, it has come at the right time.

Do you think the honour will motivate youngsters to pursue the game in a country obsessed with cricket?

I hope so. For the hockey lovers and enthusiasts it will be a motivation. In fact, the game should be made compulsory as a subject from the school level. That will make a huge difference in the development of the game. Moreover, a monetary policy and benefits should be in place for every game in the country to attract more interests from the sportspersons.

The preparations for the Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in Delhi are on. What do you think of India’s chances?

Insha Allah, India will qualify for the London Olympics. There is no doubt about it. Since we are hosting the Olympic Qualifiers (in Delhi), there is a good chance for us to qualify.

You were part of Indian hockey’s golden period. What according to you is the current status of our national sport?

The current crop is doing very good. In fact they are working hard. Everyone is working hard. These days the competition has increased, which is also a good sign for the game.

What is your take on World Hockey Series?

I would say it is a good beginning for hockey. It will provide the players with exposure and also improve the game`s quality. Also, the competition will help popularise the game.