HindustanTimes Fri,11 Jul 2014


The story of truth, lies & a man called Mir
B Shrikant, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, June 26, 2007
First Published: 05:52 IST(26/6/2007)
Last Updated: 05:53 IST(26/6/2007)

Mir Ranjan Negi has lived his worst nightmare time and again. That Black Wednesday of 1982 was the darkest day of his life. The rest of Indiafs hockey team recovered from a humiliating 7-1 loss to Pakistan in the Asian Games final in Delhi. They continued with their careers and their lives; Negi, the goalie, was dubbed the villain, accused of treachery and dumped into oblivion, his life shattered.

Yashraj Filmsf Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Chak de India depicts the story of Negi, who was accused of taking money from the Pakistanis to concede goals. Although unsubstantiated, the allegations ensured he never played for India again. Chak de India is inspired by how Negi fought those allegations and redeemed his honour by helping India win the menfs Asian Games gold in 1998 at Bangkok and the womenfs team to gold at the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002.

So what actually went wrong on that fateful day? "Everything," says Zafar Iqbal, captain of that squad. gThe entire team was to blame; we forwards missed chances, the defence left huge gaps that the Pakistanis exploited. Despite making great efforts to cover the gaps, poor Negi became a sitting duck and the Pakistanis scored at will,h says Zafar. gHe was blamed solely, but every player was to blame.h

Says ace forward Mohd Shahid: gThe team succumbed to nerves... everyone from Indira Gandhi to Rajiv Gandhi and Giani Zail Singh was there.h Soon after the loss, the whispers began, that Negi had gfixedh the match. gIt was ridiculous,h says Shahid. But the allegations continued. gThe atmosphere was vicious. I remember someone claiming that he had seen Negi come out of the Pakistan High Commission on match eve,h says Zafar. gSome even enquired whether Negi, with his first name Mir, was Muslim."

A devastated Negi got no support from the Indian Hockey Federation, which dumped him. gHe was destroyed,h says Mukul Pandey, his Customs teammate. gI remember a report in the Blitz, claiming he had taken Rs. 7 lakh to lose. We wanted Negi to sue the paper, but he refused. He just wanted to blank out the incident."

Negi kept away for many months. Finally, his friends cajoled him into returning, and over the next few years, says Pandey, he played better than ever, representing his employers and Mumbai hockey with distinction. But he never played for India. But, as Zafar says, gYou canft keep a good man down foreverh. His success as a coach finally gave Negi the strength to put those dark days behind.

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