With Hitler in audience and most of the 40,000 spectators cheering for their team, odds were heavily in favour of the German team in the final hockey match at 1936 Berlin Olympics. Also, India had lost 4-1 in a practice match with the hosts. A dose of patriotism, however, was all that lifted their sagging morale. It was provided by legendary Dhyan Chand.
In the dressing room, the Indian captain and his men were singing Vande Matram, standing before a tricolour.
"The players took oath on the tricolour that they will play their best in the do or die match," Dhyan Chand researcher Hemant Dubey said, adding that it was probably for the first time that an Indian sportsman asserted his team's identity by displaying the flag, which had been adopted by the Congress in 1931.
Dhyan Chand scored a hat-trick and India thrashed Germany 8-1. The date was August 15. Regarded as the greatest player of the game, Dhyan Chand is reportedly being considered for the country's highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, this year.
"Major Dhyan Chand was the first sportsperson of India to take oath on the Tricolour under British Raj," Dubey said.
Bharat Ratna recommended for Dhyan Chand, mixed emotions for kin
"The idea of taking oath on the Tricolour came to Dhyanchand from one Dr Tarak Das in Berlin. Dhyanchand felt bad when the British flag went up after the team won hockey gold. He was going to hang his boots after the match. As a patriot he couldn't control his feelings and dared to take out the Tricolour for taking oath," he added.
Writer and judge Anil Verma narrated one more instance that establishes Dhyan Chand's nationalistic fervour.
"Despite serving the British army, Dhyan Chand offered freedom fighter Chandra Shekhar Azad shelter at his Jhansi residence," Verma added. This is corroborated by Dhyan Chand's son and former Olympian Ashok Dhyan Chand.
"Daddaji told us many a time how Chandra Shekhar Azad, who was on the run, had stayed at our house in Jhansi. He told us that he tried to contribute his bit to the freedom struggle by sheltering Azad," Ashok said.
According to former Olympian Jalaluddin Rizvi, Bharat Ratna for Dhyan Chand is long overdue. "The government wasted so many years in deciding whether a sportsperson like Dhyan Chand deserved Bharat Ratna or not," said Rizvi.