KARACHI: The quaint village of Gojra has a proud tradition of producing one international hockey player after another, with more than 110 international hockey players hailing from this village since 1970.
The latest jewel in that glittering crown is Muhammad Touseeq Arshad and at the brittle young age of 19, he already shines as bright as the rest. The darling of Gojra’s precocious talent was recognised at just 15, when he was picked for the under-15s. Two years later, merely 17 years old, he became the youngest ever hockey Pakistani Olympian when he represented the country at the 2012 London Olympics but was unable to inspire the Greenshirts to a medal as they finished a disappointing seventh.
All in the family
Like his village, his family also has a long line of international hockey players; a total 11 in all. Touseeq was the 10th; his younger brother Ateeq Arshad became the 11th and is currently the vice-captain of the Pakistan junior hockey team that is playing in Malaysia. His father, Muhammad Arshad, never made it to the international circuit but was also a professional hockey player. “Touseeq was the 10th player from our family to represent Pakistan,” he said. “Ateeq is the 11th. The first ever was my elder brother, the late Muhammad Aslam, an international hockey coach more commonly known as Ustad Aslam Roda.”
Gojra is a tehsil of the Toba Tek Singh district and has had 118 of its residents represent the country at different age groups. Many of these, especially the recent ones, benefitted from the tutelage of the late Roda and the Arshad brothers are no different. “I am really lucky that Roda was my uncle and I have learnt all of my skills from him,” said Touseeq. “Six of the players currently in the junior hockey team, including my brother, are all students of Roda.”
From strength to strength
Despite representing his country from such a young age, Touseeq has never been overwhelmed by the magnitude of the occasions. He was the man of the tournament in the second Under 18 Asia Cup Hockey Tournament that was played in Burma in December 2009; his debut international tournament
He has since then gone from strength to strength and is now considered one of the, if not the, best players in the continent. Before his departure for the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, Touseeq received the Asian Player of the Year award on August 31, given to him by the Asian Hockey Federation in the congress held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The award is his second so far, as he was also named the Asian Player of the Year in 2010. An year before that, Touseeq was awarded the best young emerging player, while he also claimed the player of the tournament award during last year’s Asian Champions Trophy in Japan. All of this and he is yet to come out of his teens.
“I have reached my first aim of becoming the best player in Asia, and now I’ve set my eyes on attaining recognition on the global stage,” the ambitious centre-half said. “I would love to help Pakistan win all the tournaments that we compete in and, even though personal records matter, I want to become a team player and help take the Greenshirts back to their glory days.”
Coming from such a village, it is no surprise that Touseeq’s love for hockey and his love for Pakistan come above everything else. Touseeq recently rejected the chance to play in the Malaysian Hockey League in order to concentrate on upcoming international commitments and to help Pakistan. “I can earn more in two months playing the Malaysian league than I will earn in two years with the international side, but my first priority is to serve my country, not earn money,” said Touseeq.
Pakistan may have failed to defend their Asian Games title and the hockey team’s performances may have been poor in the past year, but with players like Touseeq in the side, the Greenshirts surely have a lot to look forward to.
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