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Last Updated: Monday, 29 September, 2003, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK
India celebrates hockey win
India's hockey team has arrived home to a rapturous welcome after defeating arch-rivals Pakistan in the final of the Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur.

India-Pakistan hockey final in Kuala Lumpur
India's Deepak Thakur (r) tackles Pakistani goal-scorer, Sohail Abbas

Crowds of fans and reporters greeted the team at Madras (Chennai) airport on Monday, a day after the hard-won 4-2 victory.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was among the first to congratulate the players on their success, which has secured India a place at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

As well as being bitter political and military rivals, Pakistan and India are fierce competitors in the sporting arena, where hockey and cricket clashes always arouse fierce emotions.


India got off to a good start in Sunday's final with a goal from Kanwalpreet Singh.

Pakistan hit back moments later, with a penalty-corner conversion from Sohail Abbas.

Abbas hit home again for Pakistan in the 13th minute, only for India to draw level when Gagan Ajit Singh deflected a penalty corner strike into the goal.

The score line stayed at 2-2 for the best part of the match, until minutes from time, Ignace Tirkey weaved through the Pakistani defence to score for India.

India's victory was sealed with a final goal from Prabhjot Singh.

Past glories

Penalty corner specialist, Jugraj Singh, who did not play in Sunday's match because he was recovering from a car accident, credited Tirkey for having helped India win.

This is the first time India has won the Asia Cup since the tournament began in 1982.

The result ends a run of disappointments for the Indian hockey team, which lost the third place to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy in Amsterdam this summer.

Indian hockey veterans celebrated Sunday's victory by hoping the country had exorcised the ghost of past failures. India last won a title match against Pakistan in 1975.

Former Indian captain Zafar Iqbal, who led the team to an ignominious 7-1 defeat by Pakistan in 1982, said: "This win has given Indian hockey a shot in the arm it badly wanted."

India's hockey team has eight Olympic gold medals to its name, but these were won before its fortunes began to decline in the 1980s, to be eclipsed by the rising popularity of cricket.

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