'Hockey's fast and aggressive ... the rougher and faster the better'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 July, 2005, 12:00am

I was sporty and naughty growing up in the 1970s and 80s and it wasn't until my teens that hockey became a focal point of my life.

In the early 80s, the world's top hockey teams came to Hong Kong for a tournament and my Dad and I went along to watch them at King's Park.

I was knocked out by what I saw - it was simply amazing to watch the players, their pace and skills. At that time my father was president of the Pakistan Association in Hong Kong so I was introduced to the Pakistani team, one of the best in the world at that time. It was such a privilege to meet the team and hockey just clicked with me.

We'd moved to Hong Kong from Pakistan when I was about six and I found it hard to adjust being in a different country. Dad had started this textile trading business in 1974 and we came in 1975.

I'd been used to this big family and then suddenly we were without that. It took about six months to adjust but fortunately there was a big open space where we lived and where kids in the neighbourhood could play.

So I first started playing soccer then moved on to tennis, swimming and so on - it's how I made friends and fortunately I'm a friendly guy.

Whatever anyone else is doing you tend to do it too. There were Hong Kong Chinese, Europeans, Americans, Canadians - it was like the United Nations. I also joined the YMCA and took up karate.

My primary school was Royden House and I then went on to Sear Rogers International School.

I liked it and was good at biology, history and geography which I picked up quickly. I particularly liked history - topics such as Stalin fascinated me. I didn't excel at the sciences though.

What I hated most about school was that Monday morning feeling. Sunday night I'd spend mentally preparing myself for the following day with that scared and knotted feeling in my stomach.

I was a bit of a prankster as well, usually harmless stuff like hiding things that belonged to the other boys and girls.

I liked my geography teacher, a big fat guy who joked around and didn't treat us in a traditional teacher-student way. The biology teacher, who was also the vice-principal, used to crack jokes as well. However, the guy who taught us maths scared me. He'd be threatening, although I've seen him since and he's friendly.

I took up hockey in 1984 after watching that international tournament. I'd go to King's Park at 8am on a Sunday morning but always seemed to be the reserve, although I'd get to play now and again.

It was when I went to the University of Karachi in Pakistan in 1985 that my hockey playing took off. I joined a club and played for four hours every day.

Within a year, I'd played for the club, the district and the university.

I'd pour my energy into training, spending two hours on it in the morning and two in the evening everyday except Sunday. I then played in the national championships in Pakistan.

I ended up returning to Hong Kong and playing for the SAR. In the first season that I returned I scored more than 40 goals.

I love hockey. It's exciting, fast and aggressive; in fact, the rougher and faster it is, the better. You also have to be very disciplined as you can get carded easily.

Sport can be a lifeline for kids. It's far better to channel any negative energy into it and avoid thuggery. Now I'm a father, I see my son is developing a passion for sport as well. He's only six years old but I see the positive effect it has on him and it fills me with pleasure.

Farooq Saeed is captain of the SAR's hockey squad. He was talking to David Phair.