Pakistan is a country that has been blessed with many great players like Hasan Sardar, Shahbaz Ahmed senior, Samiuallah and the endless list of talent goes on and on. Sohail Abbas is another such great who has made waves in the hockey world because of his talent. Sohail Abbas is a drag flicker of the Pakistan team and is even called the world's best penalty corner specialist.
His passion for hockey started at a very young age. He was born into a family where sports were running in their blood. His father was a cricketer and so sports was a vital part of his life. His uncle Safdar Abbas was a hockey player who scored a vital goal against Argentina in the 1973 world cup. Safdar was only 16 years old and he became Sohail's inspiration and sport icon.
Sohail was educated in Habib Public school In Karachi. This is a school which has been known for producing many great Pakistani hockey players as Hockey is taught as a subject here. Sohail was a penalty specialist and played for the Under 18 Pakistan hockey squad.
His entry into the Pakistan hockey team has been a very dramatic one. He was taken into the junior squad after a great performance in the 1995 Quetta Junior hokey U18 championship. After that he was dropped and made it back to the team when the played the third junior Asia cup hockey tournament in Singapore. He finally managed to find a spot in the team in the year 1997 only to be dropped again.
1998 changed fortunes for both Sohail Abbas and the Pakistan national team. This player got his big break in 1998 and since then he hasn't looked back. In his first year he scored 20 goals and helped Pakistan win the Azlan Shah cup. He was also a vital instrument in the silver medal win at the Asia cup the same year.
Abbas has scored 274 international goals, surpassing the 22-year-old record of Dutch penalty corner specialist Paul Litjens. He retired in December 2004, just after the Champions Trophy in Lahore along with another Pakistani great Waseem when he was only 27 years of age but on July 04, 2006, he has decided to return to the international hockey. 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, Athens, 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, Wasim Ahmed 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. His entry and exit from the team in his early career was in plenty but his focus and aggression got him a place back on the team. This very same focus aggression and skill made him the world's best penalty specialist and gave him his permanent seat in the history of Pakistani hockey. Abbas also raised funds for the earthquake victims of his homeland by arranging an exhibition hockey match in The Netherlands where he has lived for the past two years playing in the Dutch league in the aftermath of a devastating October 8 2005 earth quake.