From the word go the World Cup promised to be the Prime Hockey Tournament which would soon overshadow the importance of the Olympics. Today it is a fact. The World Cup has been responsible for generating almost a revolution in hockey, spawning tough competition, several new tournaments and even giving birth to new strategies of the game.
The nine 'World Cups held to date have not only been exciting but so different from each other that it is quite possible to write a dramatic case book on each one of them.
Hockey has been as international sport since a very long time. It has been an Olympic sport since 1908. But the invention of World Cup hockey took quite a few years to materialise. Firstly the response form the European countries was far from encouraging. Until then the term World Cup was almost exclusively associated with football, without its thoroughly professional base. Secondly, the argument was that hockey was not a sport widespread enough to make it feasible to conduct such a competition on a regular basis.
But as the years went by, a need was felt for having an exclusive world-level competition for hockey, like soccer, whose World Cup was introduced in 1930. World renowned hockey scribe Patrick Rowley stressed the need of gathering of nations for world title in 60s. Now living in Essex, he was the first editor of magazine World Hockey which was launched by FIH in 1969.
There was also a school of thoughts on whether the organization of a World Cup was advisable. Some believed that it would entail too much competition and impose heavier burdens on the players; others, taking a more realistic view, saw it as a safeguard against the impeding threat to hockey which along with other team games was in danger of being eliminated from the Olympics scene.
The first move toward this was made by Air MarshalNur Khan when he presented an expected World Cup trophy to FIH President Rene Frank on the concluding day of 9-NationInternational tournament at Lahore on 16 March 1969. Nur Khan, appointed PHF President on 3 November 12966, also offered to bear the airfares and other expenses if the World Cup was awarded to Pakistan.
Accordingly, Ali Iqtidar Shah Dara of Pakistan and Jimmy Nargarvala of India travelled to Paris for submission of joint appeal in the FIH Council. The Council appointed a Commission of seven persons to study the proposal. It consisted of A.I.S. Dara, Indian Hockey Federation Secretary, S.M Sait, Miguel Azriel (Argentina), Wolfgang Klee (Austria), M. Rafaat (UAR), P.G. Ryan (Australia) and A. Danet (FRANCE). It reported back to the Council on 27 October 1969 at Brussels with a recommendation that a World Cup be organized after intervals of every two years.
This proposal was the unanimously accepted and the same Commission was asked to draft the corresponding regulations and qualification plan. The Commission s proposals in this connection were adopted by the Council at a meeting in Brussels on 12 April 1970. It was decided to hold the inaugural World Cup in 1971.
The way was cleared for a succession of World Cups which, so far, Pakistan has won four times, Netherlands thrice, India and Australia once. At first, the event was held every two years but after 1975 three years elapsed before it went to Buenos Aires in 1978. The purpose was to start a four-year cycle which has been maintained.
When came to staging the first ever World Cup in Lahore in 1971, unfortunately, political issues intervened and Pakistan reluctantly had to give up the right to stage the event. A controversy started all over Pakistan on the staging of the World Cup and inviting India for the tournament. Both the countries were involved in the 1965 war and another war was not far away. Eventually, the Government persuaded Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) to give up the idea of staging the Cup. An announcement was made in Paris by FIH Secretary General Etienne Glichtich that he had been informed on the telephone that PHF was unable to commence the World Cup on 12 February and extension was required until September. FIH announced on 27 January that a decision on the World Cup would be taken at Brussels in March 1971.
On 25 February, K.M. Azhar declined to give FIH a firm guarantee that tournament would not be postponed again. However, PHF suggested to FIH to postpone its March meeting to May when the situation would become clearer. At the moment India was concentrating on its forces on the borders of Pakistan and there were demonstrations against Pakistan embassy in New Delhi.
On 20 March, KM Azhar announced that if India would be picked as host, Pakistan will not participate. He also sent a message to FIH through Brig. Jamil Akhtar Aziz, who attended the meeting along with A.I.S. Dara that the World Cup should be held in Pakistan in Winter when it was hoped the political situation would improve.
It was finally decided by FIH at its March 1971 meeting to hold the first World Cup in the Spanish city of Barcelona in the Autumn of 1971 putting at rest the uncertainty of staging the competition.
Exerpt from 'Glory and Agony: Pakistan Hockey' by Sardhar Khan