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Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019

Dhyan Chand: Great Magician of Hockey

This legendary sportsperson paved the path of the British Indian team to win three Olympic hockey gold medals and scored over 400 goals in his international career. The hockey wizard‘s birth anniversary today is observed as National Sports Day.

inspiring-lives Updated: Aug 29, 2019 13:50 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Dhyan Chand was a legendary sportsperson who paved the path of the British Indian team to win three Olympic hockey gold medals and scored over 400 goals in his international career.
Dhyan Chand was a legendary sportsperson who paved the path of the British Indian team to win three Olympic hockey gold medals and scored over 400 goals in his international career.(Illustration: Mohit Suneja)
         

He was born in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, on August 29, 1905, to Sameshwar Dutt Singh, who was employed in the British Indian Army, and Sharadha Singh. As a boy, he attended school for just six years owing to his father’s transferable job. He graduated from Victoria College, Gwalior in 1932. Although the youngster’s father as well as brothers played hockey, young Dhyan Chand did not show an inclination for the sport till later on in his life.

Career

In 1922, Dhyan Chand joined the British Indian Army as a sepoy at the age of 16 and took up hockey. He began playing in army hockey tournaments and in 1926 made it to the British Indian Army team which was to tour New Zealand. The team won 18 matches out of 21 and the youngster won a lot of appreciation for his performance.

He was promoted to the Lance Naik’s post. When hockey was reintroduced in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, he won a place in the Indian team. Dhyan Chand scored three goals in India’s debut Olympic match against Austria, which the team won 6-0. India also defeated Belgium, Denmark and Switzerland en route to the final. India beat Netherlands 3-0 to win their first Olympic gold medal. Dhyan Chand was the hero of the 1928 Olympics with a tally of 14 goals in five matches.

In the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, Dhyan Chand made it to the national team, as did his brother Roop Singh. India again clinched the gold medal. Thereafter, the Indian team went on an international tour that included the United States and England. India won 34 matches out of 37 during the tour, with Dhyan Chand netting 133 of the 338 goals scored by the country.

In 1934, he became the captain of the Indian hockey team and led the squad to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. There too, his magic propelled India to its third successive Olympic gold. He played hockey till the late 1940s.

Personal life

Dhyan Chand married Janaki Devi in 1936 and had seven sons. In 1956, he retired from the army holding the rank of major. One of his sons, Ashok Kumar Singh, was a member of India’s Olympic hockey teams in the 1970s and scored the winning goal in the 1975 World Cup championship. After retirement, he taught at coaching camps in Mount Abu, Rajasthan.

Later, he accepted the position of Chief Hockey Coach at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala, which he held for several years. His last days were spent in penury in Jhansi, his hometown. He died on December 3, 1979 at the age of 74.

Awards, achievements and legacy

In 1980, the Indian government issued a commemorative postage stamp in Dhyan Chand’s honour – making him the only hockey player to so feted. An astroturf hockey pitch at the Indian Gymkhana Club in London has been named after him. In 2002, the National Stadium in New Delhi was renamed Dhyan Chand National Stadium.

A hostel at Aligarh Muslim University, of which he was an alumnus, was also named after him. In his career, he scored more than 1,000 goals, of which 400 came in international matches. India’s highest award for lifetime achievement in sports bears his name.

Interesting Facts

1.His original name was Dhyan Singh. He practised during the night after work, waiting for the Moon to appear for an improved visibility. Fellow players began calling him Chand meaning Moon in Hindi.

2.The best compliment Dhyan Chand ever got was from none other than Australia’s batting legend Don Bradman. The legendary batsman told the hockey legend that he scored goals like he scored runs.

3. His wizardry was such that people doubted his real skills. It is said that the officials in Netherlands once broke Dhyan Chand’s hockey stick to check whether there was a magnet inside.

4.Once, when Chand was unable to score he argued with the match referee about the measurement of the goal post. He was right, as the post did not meet the minimum width prescribed in the rules.

5.It is believed that after India defeated Germany in the 1936 Olympics final, Hitler offered the post of Colonel in the army if Dhyan Chand migrated to Germany. He declined the offer.

Sources: wikipedia, Britannica.com, sportskeeda.com & thefamouspeople.com

First Published: Aug 29, 2019 13:49 IST

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