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Sohail Abbas

Sohail Abbas  (born 9 June 1975 in Karachi) is a field hockey defender, penalty corner specialist and former captain of the Pakistan Hockey Team. He is the highest goal scorer in the history of field hockey,[5] with his current goal tally at 348, as of 9 Aug 2012. 

Early life
Born at Karachi's Holy Family Hospital, Soldier Bazaar on 9 June 1975, Sohail is a former pupil of Karachi's Habib Public School, the school of many other hockey stars. In fact, it has been rightly remarked that hockey is taught as a subject in this school.

He came from a sporting family; his father, Syed Iftikhar Hussain, was a former first-class cricketer. He represented Karachi as well as Pak Crescent Club, famous for producing Zaheer Abbas. Sohail is eldest of three brothers. Raheel Abbas his younger one is an IT professional and a Professional / First Class Cricketer also involve in Media Doings as well. Sohail has often said that his inspiration came from his uncle, Safdar Abbas,a left-winger who scored against Argentina during the 1974 World Cup as 16-year-old boy. Sohail is keen to emphasize the part played by Safdar, who, Sohail says, inspired him as a youngster.

As a young hockey player, his potential was not realized for some time. He had difficulty making an impact on the professional hockey leagues 1995-98. Like many Pakistani hockey players, he is a product of the Pakistan Junior Squad. An impressive performance in the 18th Junior National Hockey U18 Championship at Quetta 1995 gained him a place in Pakistan Junior squad which drew their home series 2-2 against Germany Juniors. He was not selected for the tour of Netherlands, Germany and Poland, playing next for Pakistan in the 3rd Junior Asia Cup at Singapore in 1996. He staged a comeback in the Pakistan Junior side in 1997, a side which beat Germany Junior in four consecutive test matches.

Four months later, he was dropped from the Pakistan Junior squad. Pakistan Junior team manager Samiullah Khan and coach Ayaz Mahmood were not convinced to include him for the 1997 World Cup staged in Milton Keynes - an underwhelming squad that failed to making it to the Junior World Cup semi-finals for the first time in the cup's 25-year history. Finally, he made his debut the following year on the national team and has since become arguably hockey's most prolific goalscorer of all time.

Sohail, who struck 20 goals in 1998, was in terrific form in 1999 when Pakistan won the Azlan Shah Cup for the first time and got silver in Asia Cup. He was leading scorer in 8th Pakistan-India Series (10 goals), 9th Azlan Shah Cup (12 goals) and 5th Asia Cup (16 goals). Of 16 Asia Cup's goals, seven were against Sri Lanka which allowed him a place in a select band of nine players who registered double hat-tricks in international circuits for Pakistan. His 60 goals in 1999 beat the world record of Litjens (58 goals) and national record of Sardar (50 goals) in one calendar year.

International career
When he made his international debut during the 7th Pak-India series 1998, his role was only to come from the bench for penalty corner drills. His debut was at Peshawar's Lala S.M. Ayub Hockey Stadium on Saturday, 28 February 1998. Pakistan manager Islahuddin Siddiqui effected a substitution midway through the tie, but failed to make an impact. He failed to score in three penalty corners as Pakistan won 4-1. The following day, on 1 March 1998, in the second test at Rawalpindi's Army Hockey Stadium, Abbas announced his arrival on the international scene in dramatic fashion, scoring a drag flick from a penalty corner which proved to be the match-winner in Pakistan's 2-1 victory.

When the rule was changed after the 1998 World Cup, he was not considered for the 16th Commonwealth Games by coach Shahnaz Sheikh. But he staged a comeback to win silver in Lahore's 20th CT and bronze in Bangkok's 13th Asian Games in the same year.

Abbas scored his 267th international goal during the Champions Trophy in Amritsar, India to equal the 22-year-old record of Dutch penalty corner specialist Paul Litjens on 4 October 2004[8] and then on 8 October he broke the Dutchman's record.[9] He retired in December 2004, just after the Champions Trophy in Lahore along with another Pakistani great Waseem Ahmad, when he was only 27 years of age but on 4 July 2006, he decided to return to the international hockey.[10] Since the summer of 2005 he and Waseem have both played for Dutch club Rotterdam. He struck his 33rd goal to break Mark Hager's 9-year old record. His 33rd goal emerged from penalty-mark when he converted 66th minute penalty-stroke against India in Pakistan's 2-1 win on fourth day of 26th Champions Trophy. The Australian striker had registered 32 goals from 1985 to 1995. He took 11 editions for his 32 goals while Sohail did the needful in his 6th CT and added another on 12 December tie to make his final Champions' Trophy total 34.

Sohail was also leading scorer at the 2000 Olympic Games, Sydney, with 11 goals, and of the 9th Indo-Pakistan series, with seven goals. Mixing his impressive hitting abilities with drag-flicks, Abbas has proved himself to be the world's most consistent drag-flick converter, his success rate over 65% mark. Sohail was the key figure when Pakistan won a place at the Athens Olympic Hockey Tournament by finishing third at Madrid's Olympic Qualifier on 13 March 2004. Three times Olympic Champion Pakistan also qualified for Sydney Olympics four years ago by taking part in Osaka 's Olympic Qualifier in March 2000. Pakistan finished second on the Japanese soil, with Sohail scoring 13 goals to finish as leading marksman. Sohail was also leading marksman at Madrid with nine goals. Four of these nine goals were against India in league encounter when he converted four out of four penalty corners. At Athens, he became the record Pakistani goalscorer in a single Olympiad, beating the 10-goal record of centre-forward Hassan Sardar, created at the Los Angeles Olympiad twenty years beforehand. Only Sohail, Sardar and Abdul Rashid Jr. have topped the goal scoring-chart in Olympics hockey. Rashid did it in 1968 when he was joint leader with Brian Glencross (Australia) and Prithipal Singh (India).

Sohail matched the world record on 4 October 2000 during the fifth test of the current series at the stadium named after Hockey Wizard Dhyan Chand; part of three gold medal-winning Indian teams in the Olympics - Amsterdam 1928, Los Angeles 1932 and Berlin 1936, where he was the captain. Sohail scored his 267th international goal at this historic venue from the 65th minute penalty-stroke. Sohail was already the holder of three world records in his six-year international career, before Amritsar's landmark. He is the scorer of the highest number of goals (60) in a calendar year as well as the holder of the title of fastest century and double century of goals in international hockey. He reached double century of goals on 17 August 2003 at Wagener stadium when he struck twice in 6-5 thrilling win over Argentina during 25th CT.

Sohail is among the seven Pakistanis who completed 200-plus caps in the international hockey circuit. Others are Shahbaz Ahmed, Tahir Zaman, Mansoor Ahmed, Muhammad Usman, Waseem Ahmad and Muhammad Nadeem. He played his 200th international hockey match on 1 July 2004 when Pakistan clashed with the Netherlands in 4-Nation Rabobank Trophy 2004 at Amstelveen's Wagener Stadium.

It was fifth CT for Sohail, and, in the process, he became the all-time leading scorer of Pakistan in this prestigious annual event, topping Hanif Khan's 21-goal record by converting the PC against Argentina in the 7th minute. It was his 22nd goal of CT history.

Sohail can easily be regarded as the best short corner expert in world hockey. Argentina's Jorge Lombi and Netherlands's Taeke Taekema are second in line. He is a natural short corner expert with a very strong wrist, a powerful drag flick and a perfected dummy "body dodge" action. He was Pakistani candidate for the FIH Player of the Year award in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004 but failed to outpoint Jay Stacy (Australia), Stephan Veen (Netherlands), Florian Kunz (Germany), Teun de Nooijer (Netherlands) and Jamie Dwyer (Australia) respectively.

Sohail, who struck 20 goals in 1998, was in terrific form in 1999 when Pakistan won the Azlan Shah Cup for the first time and got silver in Asia Cup. He was leading scorer in 8th Pakistan-India Series (10 goals), 9th Azlan Shah Cup (12 goals) and 5th Asia Cup (16 goals). Of 16 Asia Cup's goals, seven were against Sri Lanka which allowed him a spot in a select band of nine players who registered double hat-trick in international circus for Pakistan. His 60 goals in 1999 shattered the world record of Litjens (58 goals) and national record of Sardar (50 goals) in one calendar year.

Sohail's extraordinary talent and goal scoring prowess mean that he is a target of hockey clubs all over the world. He gets offers from clubs of numerous countries and represented Dutch club Amsterdam in 1999. In Netherlands, the hockey league, like soccer, runs for as long as six months with a winter break in between. Due to his commitments with the Pakistan team, Sohail only played for nine weeks and that too in two spells. He was provided with free lodging and boarding, offered a car and paid as much as 700 dollars per match.

Time spent in Netherlands him tone his skills and he pays warm tribute to the club boss Jons Hanset, who helped make his stay enjoyable. Twelve goals in 5 matches and helped his team qualify for the play-offs was no mean feat and he has no hesitation in stating that Netherlands remains his favorite country to visit. Close to his mother, he describes her as "my greatest supporter. I credit her with all I have achieved." His heroes of different sports are Shahbaz Ahmed Sr (hockey), Diego Maradona (soccer) and Andre Agassi (tennis).

Sohail is quickest to complete the century of goals, reaching the three figures, when Pakistan thrashed Britain 8-1 in Sydney Olympics on 18 September 2000 (His 50th goal was recorded on 12 August 1999 when he got hat-trick against Spain during Rabobank Challenge at Amstelveen). Thus he completed his century in world record timing of two years, six months and 18 days. He was the sixth Pakistani to reach three figures in international arena after Hassan Sardar (150 goals), Tahir Zaman (134 goals), Kamran Ashraf (129 goals), Hanif Khan (127 goals) and Manzoorul Hassan Sr (101 goals).

He got eight goals at Sydney after handsome display at Osaka's Olympic qualifiers. His achievement at Japan was all the more remarkable considering he had only just returned to the fray after spending four months on the sidelines with a groin injury. His total goals in 2000 were 26, followed by 37 in 2001.

Sohail attracted worldwide attention in 2002 when he emerged as the joint highest scorer along with Argentina's Jorge Lombi in the 10th World Cup at Kuala Lumpur. And all 10 goals that Sohail scored at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in the Malaysian capital were off PCs. He managed 44 goals in 2002 and added yet another feather to his cap in that year. Hasan Sardar was Pakistan's top scorer with 150 goals before Abbas unveiled his goal-scoring prowess. During the Six-Nation Invitational tournament at Kuala Lumpur, a month before World Cup 2002, Sohail scored his 151st international goal, becoming Pakistan's all-time highest scorer in international hockey. He struck nine goals as Pakistan managed bronze medals in 17th Commonwealth Games hockey tournament at Belle Vue Regional Hockey Center at Manchester. He struck hat-trick when Pakistan routed South Africa 10-2 in bronze-decider on 4 August 2002. Later, in the 24th CT in Cologne, Germany, Sohail played a major role and Pakistan finished third ahead of India. The full-back, who joined Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) on 27 July 2004, had scored 274 goals in 224 matches.

He was back bone of his previous organization Pakistan WAPDA in domestic hockey. WAPDA is currently national champion of Pakistan and their back-to-back triumphs, thanks to Sohail, recorded during 50th and 51st National Championship at Karachi 2003 and Peshawar 2004 respectively. Sohail also helped his previous domestic team HBL to reach the final of the National Championship in 2001.

Sohail managed 28 goals in 2003 and for the sixth time running, he finished as annual leading scorer for Pakistan. He struck five goals as Pakistan met success in Ipoh's 12th Azlan Shah Cup in March 2003 but later on Pakistan went to Australia without him, Nadeem Ahmed and Waseem Ahmad as the trio had defied the PHF by skipping the national training camp to play professional league in Germany. Sohail and Waseem represented German club Harvestehuder THC of Hamburg while Nadeem played for Gladbacher HTC. It was Sohail's third spell as pro hockey player after Dutch league 1999 and Malaysian League 2002 (he represented Bank Simpanan Nasional BSN along with Kashif Jawwad).

Nadeem did return in time for the trials for the Australia-bound squad, but he was not considered for selection and Pakistan suffered embarrassment, finishing last in both twin 4-Nation tournaments at Perth and Sydney. Nadeem, later on, was reprimanded for his act while Sohail and Waseem were not allowed to appear in Pakistan-China series in July. They faced an inquiry committee on 14 July 2003 during which they regretted the mistake. Both were allowed to join the camp and seven days later were included in the team for the 25th CT. But their inclusion only came after hefty fines of Rs. 100,000 each on the players. PHF inquiry committee had also recommended a one-year ban on the duo. But PHF President Gen. Muhammad Aziz Khan brought an amicable end to the controversy when he said that the under-fire players will compete in the CT in better national interest.

Sohail won bronze in Amstelveen's CT, followed by silver in KL's 6th Asia Cup. The PHF sent under-strength team at the First Afro Asian Games hockey event at Hyderabad Deccan 2003 by resting Sohail saying he needed rest after the CT and Asia Cup.

Sohail also started 2004 in whirlwind fashion and won the top scorer award in 13th Azlan Shah Cup at Bukit Jalil Complex. He struck ten goals with the help of two hat tricks against India and Germany. He managed one double hat trick and 21 hat tricks in international hockey so far: a record unmatched in international field hockey. Sohail recorded 59 goals in 2004 and was well poised to break his own world record of most goals in calendar year (60 in 1999) before retirement.

Sohail participated in the 2010 Hockey World Cup which turned out to be a major flop for Pakistan as they finished last in the tournament. Sohail subsequently missed the Commonwealth Games where Pakistan finished sixth after losing to India and South Africa. He was recalled to the Pakistan team for the 2010 Asian Games as Pakistan plan to win that tournament [11] National Goal-keeper Salman Akbar was also recalled [12] He started the tournament well when he scored 2 goals for Pakistan as the floored Japan 8-2 in the Asian games. 

Sohail's First Major Gold Medal was In 2010 Asian Game Held at China.Abbas's finest moment for 
Pakistan continued to be the 2010 Asian Games as the was part of the team which beat South Korea 4-3 on penalty strokes. Abbas however missed his penalty. Malaysia defeated India 4-3 and played Pakistan in the final. On 25 November 2010 the Malaysia v Pakistan final started during the 28th minute of the match Abbas scored a penalty corner to give Pakistan a 1-0 lead. Rehan Butt scored a goal 4 minutes after half time to extend the lead to 2-0. Malaysia failed to score and the whistle blew with Pakistan winning the 2010 Asian Games Hockey Tournament. This became Pakistan's first victory at the Asian Games since 1990 and their first victory in a major international tournament since the 1994 Champions Trophy. The 16 year drought ended and Pakistan and Sohail Abbas put a poor World Cup and Commonwealth Games behind them to give their country their first major trophy in 16 years. 

In 2011, he was the top scorer for Pakistan with 21 goals to his credit.  He injured his jaw during Champions Trophy in New Zealand, and had to sit out of the 3 match home series against China. 

After serving Pakistan for almost 14 years, Abbas was awarded the captaincy of the national hockey side for the first time in the Azlan Shah Cup and London Olympics 2012. Abbas's side ended 7th (last) in the Azlan Shah 2012 tournament. Similarly, they ended the Olympics at the 7th position despite starting off with a draw against Spain.[19] Sohail was dropped from the team after the Olympics. 

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