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Atif's book an enchanting panorama of past and pr (7/30/2004)
--K. Arumugam
15th July 2004: History is what historians want you to know. This is the popular view on history prevalent amidst many, for events are often interpreted diametrically opposite ways based on personal perceptions and prejudices. Exceptions to this rule are most exceptional. Especially when the person who makes history himself prefers to pen it. Dhyan Chand's autobiography, goal, is the best example of history telling and in fact 'goal' is simply the history personified.

The other variety of history book is one where the history maker himself joins the host of his admirers and try to give the posterity a gift. This may be considered a shift, paradigm at that, in history telling, but the new genre is not out of place. This is exactly the case of recent publication from Pakistan soils -- Atif: The Living Legend of Hockey.

His admirers notably Sardar Khan and Abdul Wahidi came together to pool the past of Atif in an extremely entertaining compilation, `Atif: The Living Legend of Hockey'. As already outlined, the salient feature of the book is Atif himself contributing to the content in big way which veritably enliven the past. Atif's recap of 1968 Olympics, in which Pakistan obtained its second of three Olympic golds, is the case in point. It's well portrayed, with eye for details.

Having figured in four fruitful Olympics and helped his countrymen win handsome laurels in many others, Atif is a tall figure, literally too. But the greatness of the great player lies not just in his playing days, but his unbridled passion even after hanging the boot. Atif is such a rare breed of players whose non-playing career has been as colourful as playing one, if not more. It's not a mean achievement. More in the sub-continent where local and individualistic politics undermine collective interests.

There are many who played four Olympics -- and in fact the Akber Wahidi painstakingly lists out there are indeed 24 of them, a piece of rare finding that is available in the book in question -- but Atif's involvement with hockey in both national and global levels had been sustained for about another four decades since he retired after the silver in 1964 Olympics. It reached the pinnacle in 1994 when Atif was elected Chairman of the Hockey Rules Board, a body that is antecedent to FIH. Needless to reiterate, he is the first and the only non European to head the august body.

There is nothing like getting accolades from home. Recognition by the own countrymen is often an elusive thing, but Atif is lucky to have bevy of lovers and admirers surrounding him. This book therefore must be something to cherish for Atif in the first place, as it comes from real natives, lovers to the core, who wish to perpetuate his achievements and actions for the sake of posterity. Sardar and Wahidi's love for Atif is as much as Atif's lover for Nur Khan, a visionary hockey buff. The true love of the authors is all evident in every page of the book, which is truly a labour of love.

On opening the hardbound, heavy book, one unmindfully feels one more souvenir is at hand. The cover design has to something for this. The view however slowly fades away as one flips through pages. From an adulatory beginning, one gets to read real pieces of history subsequently, which are afresh in news and unabridged in details. Bit repetitive but hardly unattractive.

There are 32 messages in the first chapter, aptly entitled 'Tributes to Atif'. Starting from FIH presidents Els van Breda Vriesman, Juan Angel Calzado and Etienne Glichitch to young Tahir Zaman and Shahbaz Ahmed, wide array of present and past greats of hockey world come out with their version and vision of Atif and his times. This is eye opener to all towering personality that Atif has been all through his life. It must have been a great job for the compilers to approach and get the message from such wider spectrum of people.

Peter Cohen, present FIH Hon. Secretary General, looks backs his days when he played against Pakistan as a member of state team and lets you know, 'My first impressions of this great man last until this very day and will endure in my mind' s eye forever'. Under `Giant of Hockey', Glichitch says how he and Atif `used to solve problems within no time' and Dr. Hugo Budinger, former German captain concludes, 'hockey is not a war, but a powerful war-like defense line is required for success in this game. This is a lesson which I learnt from Atif.' India's lone man in the list of well wishers in the chapter, Zafar Iqbal, terms Atif as 'Friend of Third Word', and says firmly that 'one of the reasons of the downfall of Indian hockey is that we have no personality who can match the ability of Atif'. Nothing can be further from truth. Thus this chapter presents facts matter of factly rather than simple words of praise.

The book, a high end product, not slime and sleek but spreadsheet type, is rep

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