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Their hearts still beat for Pakistan

india Updated: Nov 25, 2010 23:08 IST
Ajai Masand
Ajai Masand
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

This family loves to travel together and their talk almost invariably revolves around hockey. Meet the four Pakistan-born hockey players, who are not just great ambassadors of the sport in Hong Kong, but are also brothers.

Asghar Ali (38), Akbar Ali (34), Asif Ali (33) and Arif Ali (29) have represented their adopted country in three Asian Games and two Asian Cups, but now time has come for them to 'part ways'. "Akbar and I plan to quit day after the Games. The age is not on our side, but I hope our youngest brother Arif will continue to play for a few more years," says Asghar, the eldest.

After Hong Kong's mauling at the hands of continental giants, India and Pakistan, Asghar says, "It will take some time for hockey in Hong Kong to grow. We need support from the two countries."

Though the team couldn't make an impression in Guangzhou, the brothers feel their names and the fact that they can speak English, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and Cantonese helps them confuse their opponents.

"Our parents played a big role in shaping our hockey careers. They wanted to acquaint us with the Pakistani culture," says Akbar, who was born in Faisalabad and left the country in 1972.

"Initially, we had a tough time playing in big tournaments as we had to take days off from work to devote time to our passion," says Akbar.

The Hong Kong team coach, Sarjit Singh Kundan, now dreads the day when two of his mainstays will leave the sport. "They have been an integral part of our team and with them around there is little problem of co-ordination," says Kundan.

Their favourite team? "Pakistan," they reply in unison. After the team lost to India 2-3, they were downcast, but Thursday's result, when Pakistan beat Malaysia in the final to claim gold, their joy knew no bounds.