Hockey legend and triple Olympic gold medallist Balbir Singh Sr, on Wednesday, hoisted the Tricolour at International Hockey Stadium, SAS Nagar, to mark 67th anniversary of India’s victory over Britain in the 1948 London Olympics final.
This was India’s first major sports outing as an independent nation and to top it all, the team which included past hockey greats and Balbir Singh Sr himself, defeated their past masters 4-0 in a one—sided final that too on the British soil. Before this medal India had already won the gold thrice in 1929, 32 and 36 but this was the first gold as an independent nation.
The event was attended by many dignitaries, young hockey trainees and school children. The Balbir Singh Senior Hockey Foundation was also launched today and as a gesture, the hockey legend donated the entire sum of Rs 30 lakh, he received as part of the life time achievement award from Hockey India, to the foundation.
“The foundation has been launched with a specific aim of ‘regaining world supremacy in hockey’. Over the next few years the foundation will aim to invest in technical know-how and young talented players in the age group of 13 to 16 years. The details about the work the foundation is looking to take up will be announced later during the formal launch,” said Kabir, grandson of Balbir Singh Sr.
Prior to this, braving sultry weather conditions, Balbir Sr climbed up the steep stairs of the stadium to hoist the tricolour amid thunderous applause from the crowd that also included budding hockey players.
“It was a proud moment for all of us when we defeated England, which had until a year ago ruled India for a long period, on their own turf (in 1948),” the living legend said.
“I still remember that before the match started, the Wembley stadium was reverberating with the noise of English fans. As we took an early lead and later on pumped another goal, after the half time some English fans started rooting for India, saying make it half a dozen (score 6 goals),” Balbir Sr recalled.
He said that August 12, 1948, was “greatest day in independent India’s sporting history” and should be celebrated each year. “Now, I wish that India wins an Olympic gold and we again get a chance to unfurl the flag,” the iconic centre forward said.
In the 2012 London Olympics, Balbir Sr was the only Indian among 16 chosen Olympic legends across modern Olympic history.
His world record for most goals scored by an individual in the men’s hockey final of Olympics still remains unbeaten.
He had scored five goals in India’s 6-1 victory over The Netherlands in the gold medal match of the 1952 Helsinki Games.
Besides, Balbir Sr’s family and friends, Chandigarh Hockey Association’s senior functionary Yash Pal Vohra, sports sociologist SK Gupta, Punjab Cricket Association’s CEO, Brig G S Sandhu (retd) and former India hockey player Madan Mohan Singh were present on the occasion.