Hockey hero sticks with it

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 December, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 December, 1997, 12:00am

Hong Kong captain Farooq Saeed was not quite the player you would have expected when he first took up hockey 12 years ago.

'I was horrible. I wasn't good at all,' admitted the 27- year-old Pakistani, who last month led the SAR to triumph in the Asian Hockey Federation Cup.

'I started playing in 1985, in Pakistan, after I did my O- Levels. At that time, I was training three hours every day. I joined a club and trained each day from 4 pm to sunset.

'I did a lot of physical training, like running and individual stick-work. I did this for one-and-an-half years, even though I could not get into my club's first 11.' Saeed said perseverance and a lot of hard work which eventually won him a place in the club's first team, one of the best in Hyderabad.

'It took me a long time before I could get into the team. I was that bad. But once I played for the club, there was really no turning back for me,' he said.

The hard work began to pay off as he made his mark in several inter-district tournaments.

'My club was made up of all young players, with an average age of 21. But even after I got into the team, I still worked hard, doing additional training in the mornings.

'I used to get up at 5 am in the morning and do a lot of training with my friends. I eventually played for my university and for my district.' When Saeed came to Hong Kong, in 1989, he was ready to make an impact.

'I played for the Pakistan Association, who were playing in the First Division for the first time in their history.

'At the end of 1989, I was picked to play for Hong Kong in some exhibition matches, and in 1990, I was selected to play in the Asian Games.

'Since then, I have been selected for all the international matches. I still worked hard on my game and even during the off-season I still made it a point to train at least four times a week. I'm always on the move.' Saeed said youngsters had to be prepared for a lot of hard work if they wanted to become accomplished hockey players.

'Hockey is an individual game. You have to practice on your own sometimes. You must do a lot of individual work by yourself.

'It's a game which requires a lot of fitness, especially when you play on Astroturf.

'It's good if you do a lot of individual training, such as running and sprinting.

'One thing I have learned over the years is that you get a good feel for the ball when you hit it against a wall. Getting control of the ball is also very important. It's not a bad idea to dribble the ball at home when you have time.' Saeed was made Hong Kong captain two years ago and his side pulled off the best triumph ever for SAR hockey by winning the federation cup.

They beat Singapore, 4-2, in the final match of the round-robin tournament at King's Park Hockey Ground.

'A lot of hard work was involved. We're a very young team with talented players. In the 10 years I have been here, this is the most talented side I have seen.

'It's also the youngest, with an average age of 20 to 21. The players played with a lot of heart and, with the right coaching, we could go places,' he said.