India lacks sports culture. And therefore it is quite easy to infer why we win so few medals at the mecca of sports, the Olympics. Sports are an integral part of any nation that wishes to be a fit nation.
Nevertheless, Indians have been loving sports from a very long time. Better late than never, we decided to start celebrating sports and dedicated one of the days of the year to the cause of sports in India – the National Sports day.
The National Sports day is celebrated to salute the great spirit of Major Dhyanchand and revive the culture of fitness through games and sports in India.
WHY ARE MAJOR DHYAN CHAND AND NATIONAL SPORTS DAYS CORRELATED
August 29 is the birth anniversary of Major Dhyan Chand. On this day, India’s major sports icon Major Dhyan Chand was born. Anyone in India who talks about Indian sports cannot overlook the great magician of the game of hockey.
WHO WAS MAJOR DHYAN CHAND?
Major Dhyan Chand was a great hockey player of India. He was born as Dhyan singh to Shri Someshwar Singh and Smt. Sharada Singh in 1905 at Prayagraj(Allahabad), Uttar Pradesh.
His father served in the Indian Army in the Pre Independent India. Being not so good in studies, his father Shri Someshwar Singh enrolled him in the Army at a young age of 16 yrs. And he became a soldier in the Indian Army in 1921. There is a culture in the Army that a son or a blood relative is given a chance to join the army on preference. And they can join the parental regiment. He got into the Punjab Regiment.
HIS LOVE FOR THE GAME OF HOCKEY
So, he joined the Punjab Regiment. Indian Army has many Regiments. These Regiments are combat forces or what we call Infantry divisions of the army. They are the ones who involve themselves in hand to fight battles. Indian Army has many such regiments like Gorkha Regiment, Garhwal Regiment, Sikh Regiment etc.
His regiment had a hockey team. There were many players from his regiment playing at national levels. The prevailing sports culture drew Dhyan Singh into the game. Till then he had never played hockey in his life. Though, he loved wrestling and occasionally indulged into it. Being an introvert by nature and bad at socialising, he found the game of hockey to be his saviour in the regimental life of Army.
And so he started to indulge into it more often. And there he found the love for the game. He became so good at the game that he got into his Regiment hockey team in 1922.
FROM DHYAN SINGH TO DHYAN CHAND
Chand was not his actual title in the name. It was given to him by his mentor Subedar Major Bale Tiwari.
Dhyan Singh often indulged in the game of hockey at twilight. When his army brothers could not trace him in the barracks, he would be traced to the nearby grounds where he played in the moonlit night. He would be so engrossed in the game that he would hardly notice the difference between playing in broad daylight or playing in a moonlit night.
Call it his passion and love for the game, it was the intense focus that came out of his association with the game. His skills blossomed and he was titled Dhyan Chand( Chand is often pronounced as Chund in colloquial Punjabi language). And Chand means moon in Hindi.
THE METEORIC RISE OF INDIAN HOCKEY WITH THE RISE OF DHYAN CHAND
The Tour of New Zealand: 1926
Till then there was no Indian Hockey team of Imperial India. But sometimes, the Regimental Army teams went to play at the international levels. Dhyan Chand was enlisted to play for the Army Regimental hockey team that was going on a New Zealand tour. It was the year 1926. In a span of 4 years of taking up hockey, he was now a part of the international squad.
Dhyan Chand played the center-forward position. The center-forward is the most important attacking position in the game of field hockey. A player in this position should always be available to receive the ball from his/her teammate and try to score a goal whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Indian Regimental team played 21 matches, won 18, drew 2, and lost 1. The Indians scored 192 goals while conceding only 24 goals. Dhyan Chand scored over 100 goals alone. And Dhyan Chand became a star player during the New Zealand tour.
Birth into Olympic Team
In the meantime, the Indian Hockey Federation was being formed and getting ready for the 1928 Olympics to be held in Amsterdam. The inter-provincial matches were played to select the 11 players. Even though Dhayn chand was not in one of those provincial teams, he got permission to play for the United Provinces team.
His clever handling of the ball with the hockey stick, the smart passing of the ball to his team players, and his lightning movements all across the field convinced everyone that he was set for big things. And shortly after winning the matches for his United Provinces team, he was into the Indian Olympic team.
The team arrived in Amsterdam in high spirits. On their way, they were invited to play against the English Team in England. Indian hockey team played 11 matches against England and won them all. The defeat disgraced the English team so badly that they decided not to send their team to the Olympics fearing a full international encounter against the then colony of Britain.
Dhyan Chand scored 14 goals in 5 matches and helped Indian win the Gold playing and defeating the Netherlands 3-0 in the finals. This is how a newspaper report about India’s play at the Olympics was published:
This is not a game of hockey, but magic. Dhyan Chand is in fact the magician of hockey.-A German newspaper reported
The Indian Team retained the gold at next Olympics held at Los Angeles in 1932. Dhyan Chand along with his brother Roop Singh scored 25 out of 35 goals scored by India. In one of their league matches, they defeated the US team 24-1 setting a world record of goal scoring.
Prior to playing the LA Olympics, Dhyan Chand was posted on the North Western Frontier Province. His platoon refused to sanction his leave for playing the nationals for the selection of hockey team. Dhyan Chand was later selected by the Indian Hockey Federation without him playing any trial matches.
Olympic Gold Hatrick
The third and the last Olympics that Dhyan Chand played was in 1936 in Berlin. The Berlin Olympics started with an inauspicious note. Indian hockey team lost against the host, Germany 4-1 in a practice match. Therefore, one of the team members, Ali Dara was flown in to replace the out of form, Mirza Masood. And the Indian team could reach the finals winning all the matches.
But, as fate would have it, they met the same team Germany against whom they had lost the practice match. The Indian team was psychologically feeling stressed. Dhyan Chand rose to the occasion. The Indian team was losing 1-0 in the first half of the game. So, Dhyan Chand decided to remove his shoes and play with bare feet to enable him to be as natural as he could be at his game.
And the Indian Team won the finals 8-1. Dhyan Chand scored 4 out of 8 goals. And retained the Olympic gold for the third time in a row. Adolf Hitler, who was present at the finals was so impressed with the game of Dhyan Chand that he offered the citizenship of Germany and the rank of colonel to him. At that time, Dhyan Chand was just a naik in the Indian Army.
End of Part 1.