For a working journalist who has been in the profession for 30 years, it is very hard to vividly recall his first assignment on a sporting event. It was in December 1995 when I was assigned by The Daily Star to cover the South Asian Federation (SAF) Games, staged in the Indian city of Madras.
It was the first overseas assignment for a TDS reporter and considering the communication and information technology available at that time -- a typewriter was the most prized possession of a reporter and the fax machine was the tool through which to transmit reports at that time -- a journey from Dhaka to the South Indian city was itself an arduous three-day venture with Coromandel Expressproviding the fastest train journey from the then Calcutta to now Chennai. It was the small matter of a 32-hour trip.
The seventh edition of South Asia's biggest sporting jamboree took place from December 18-27, and itwas not at all a happy harvest as far as Bangladesh's ambition for gold was concerned. Football was one of the events that Bangladesh wished to win but eventually failed. At that time Bangladesh were fiercely competitive in the track and field events as well as in swimming.
But one particular game that I have watched from the stands etched a lasting memory in my mind. It was a field hockey game involving Bangladesh and Pakistan at the brand new Radhakrishnan Stadium. It was a league game and Bangladesh were out to make an impression after conceding a big defeat against hosts India.
It may be mentioned here that Pakistan appeared in the tournament as defending world champions and hockey has been introduced in the SAF Games for the first time.
The Pakistan team included almost all their World Cup heroes, including stick-wizards Shabaz Khan and Tahir Zaman.
But from the start to the final whistle it was the vibrant Bangladesh players who captivated the audience with a high-octane brand of hockey that almost stunned the world champions. The match eventually ended at 3-3 thanks to a controversial ruling from Indian umpire Shakil.
Shakil awarded a penalty stroke at the fag end of the game with Bangladesh leading 3-2. The umpire later acknowledged to the devastated Bangladesh players that it was a mistake on his part, which eventually cost Bangladesh a dream final against India.
Twenty-five years have passed since then and I have witnessed some of the finest sporting moments and a few heart-stopping defeats in other fields, but that was a game still remains the most fulfilling for me, considering the context and the opposition.
In that game Bangladesh's two centre-forwards, Mohammad Sadek and Mahabub Harun, were simply unstoppable. Sadek was mesmerising, his stick-work was breathtaking and his telepathic communication with Harun was amazingly precise.
Sadek scored a beautiful field goal and set-up the other for Mus Miah to score from a penalty stroke. Rabiuddin probably scored the other goal from a penalty corner. It may be mentioned here that Pakistan scored all their goals from penalty strokes.
It was a game every Bangladeshi would probably love to watch again and again, especially at a time when they are confined to their homes in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. But unfortunately, the SAF Games has never been considered a lucrative tournament and the game has not been recorded for posterity. Still, it will remain a treasure trove in the minds of those players and officials and some Bangladeshi reporters lucky enough to be there.