I was conscious of the captain’s armband that I wore as I walked on to the hockey field, with my team of 11, for the most important game of my career. I knew the odds were against us, but I held my head high as I had already proved my critics wrong by not only recovering from the knee injury that I had suffered at the national training camp for the Pakistan team but also leading my team to the final of the All Pakistan Inter School Hockey Championship 2013. And I needed two goals to become the highest scorer of the tournament.
It was Gojra Public School against Aitchison College at the National Stadium in Lahore with a crowd of over 20,000, primarily students from schools of different cities. Our opponents were top ranked Gojra Public School – Gojra is a relatively small town but prides itself on hockey, with nearly 50% of Pakistan’s national team coming from this town. As the game started I immediately noticed that our opponents had used two of their best defenders to mark me, the most likely candidate to score the goals from the Aitchison team. I ignored the pressure and tested an aggressive forward strategy to score the first goal. But when our opponents scored two goals, I called for a team huddle. We decided to strengthen our mid field and create targeted attacks. Then I began to engage the two markers while passing the ball to create opportunities for forwards to score. After 45 minutes, the game was drawn at 2 goals each. 30 minutes of extra time, and 5 penalty shots for each side followed the regular game time to break the tie but to no avail. This led to a sudden death penalty shoot and our goalkeeper blocked the Gojra shot.
I could feel my knee as I jumped and stretched on my walk to the penalty. The crowd was in silence. My team had chins in air for that last prayer. I focused on the goalie and