‘They said I’d taken one lakh per goal . . . people used to introduce me as Mr Negi of those seven goals’

My guest this week is the original Kabir Khan (of Chak De India), Mir Ranjan Negi, who didn't quite fail to score the goal, but paid the price for consuming too many. But right now he is enjoying the fact that India scored just that many goals — seven — in the recent Asian Championships final against South Korea.

It's something like that now.

So the joy is back. After 25 long years. Take us back to 1982. What happened? I know everybody talks about the film Chak De India. Take us back to that day at the Asiad finals, when you were the goalkeeper. You were facing one of Pakistan's finest-ever forward lines. In fact one of the finest-ever forward lines anywhere. Hassan Sardar, Kalimullah . . . they were the best.

It was the first time colour TV arrived. There was multi-camera shooting of the match. When the match started, there was a lot of pressure. The then prime minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi was there, Rajiv Gandhi, the then president Giani Zail Singh, all the dignitaries. Buta Singh used to visit the Games village every day, tell us so many things . . . that Mrs Gandhi was looking forward to a hockey victory.

The other seven gold medals we won did not matter.

Slowly, the pressure built up. People used to come to us with prasad every day. There was a lot of pressure from all sides. To make matters worse, even the coaches would tell us, 'You have to die for your country.' My roommate was Mohammad Shahid. He couldn't sleep for two days because of the pressure.

And Mohammad Shahid was one of the finest forwards ever.

We scored the first goal. It was a penalty stroke by Zafar Iqbal. And then the whole team collapsed. One after another seven goals were scored. Overnight everything was lost.

... contd.

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