Major Dhyan Chand – Greatest Hockey player in the history of the sport

Major Dhyan Chand – Greatest Hockey player in the history of the sport

Dhyan Chand (29 August 1905 – 3 December 1979) was an Indian Hockey player, who is considered as
the greatest Hockey player in the history of the sport.To Chand, Hockey was nothing less than a
‘religion’. As he mentions in his autobiography, “ever since I started playing this beautiful game, I
became one of its great devotees.”

“You are doubtless aware that I am a common man, and then a soldier. It has been my training from my
very childhood to avoid limelight and publicity. I have chosen a profession where I have been taught to
be a soldier, and nothing beyond that,” wrote yesteryears Hockey legend as he began his autobiography,
“Goal”.

He is known for his extraordinary goal-scoring feats, in addition to earning three Olympic gold medals
(1928, 1932, and 1936) in field hockey, during an era where India was the most dominant team in
Hockey. His influence extended beyond these victories, as India won the men’s field hockey gold medal
in seven out of eight Olympics from 1928 to 1964.

A particular incident that happened in Germany during the Olympics is often talked about while
discussing the Hockey star’s international repute.

In 1936, the Indian Hockey team was putting their best in the Berlin Olympics. The semi-final was
against France whom they had defeated 10-0. Chand had scored 4 goals in that match. The team was
scheduled to clash against hosts Germany on August 15. Apparently, the team was excessively nervous
on the day of finals as they had been defeated in the previous match against Germany.

A group of 40,000 were present in the crowd to watch the two teams clash. In the audience were top
Nazi officials like Hermann Goering, Joseph Goebbels, Joachim Ribbentrop and the Fuehrer, Adolf
Hitler. While the Indian side could not score a single goal till interval, in the second half they went on a
full swing attack, defeating Germany 8-1. Reportedly, Dhyand Chand played the game bare footed and
later with rubber slippers, leaving the audience awestruck with his astute performance. Hitler offered him
a senior post in the German Army after witnessing his splendid performance to which he refused.

Known as The Wizard or The Magician of hockey for his superb ball control, Chand played his final
international match in 1948, having scored more than 400 goals (highest goal scorer in history of hockey)
during his international career.The Government of India awarded him the third highest civilian honour of
Padma Bhushan in 1956. His birthday, 29 August, is celebrated as National Sports Day in India every
year.

Young Chand had no serious inclination towards sports, though he loved wrestling. He stated that he did
not remember whether he played any hockey worth mentioning before he joined the Army, though he
said that he occasionally indulged in casual games in Jhansi with his friends.

Chand joined the Indian Army at the age of 16. The Hindi word Chand literally means the moon. Since
Dhyan Singh used to practice a lot during the night after his duty hours, he used to wait for the moon to
come out so that the visibility in the field (during his era there were no flood lights) improved. He was
hence called “Chand”, by his fellow players, as his practice sessions at night invariably coincided with the
coming out of the moon.

Legacy

Dhyan Chand remains a legendary figure in Indian and world hockey. His astounding skills have been
glorified in various apocryphal stories and anecdotes. A number of such these revolve around the fact
that Singh had an extraordinary control over dribbling the ball. Chand’s birthday, 29 August, is celebrated
as National Sports Day in India. The President gives away sport-related awards such as the Rajiv
Gandhi Khel Ratna, Arjuna Award and Dronacharya Award on this day at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, India.

He taught at coaching camps at Mount Abu, Rajasthan. Later, he accepted the position of Chief Hockey
Coach at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala, a post he held for several years.

The 20th National Award 2012, the Gem of India, awarded by the Union Minister of India, was given to
Dhyan Chand. The award was received by Dhyan Chand’s son, Ashok Dhyan Chand (a hockey
Olympian in his own right) on behalf of his deceased father. The award was given by Journalist
Association of India under the flagship of Journalists Federation of India, Sirifort Auditorium, New Delhi,
India, on 22 September 2012.

India’s highest award for lifetime achievement in sports is the Dhyan Chand Award which has been
awarded annually from 2002 to sporting figures who not only contribute through their performance but
also contribute to the sport after their retirement. The National Stadium, Delhi was renamed Dhyan
Chand National Stadium in 2002 in his honour.

A hostel at Aligarh Muslim University of which he was an alumnus, has been named after him.

He scored over 400 goals in his career, from 1926 to 1948.

An Astroturf hockey pitch, at the Indian Gymkhana Club in London, has been named after Indian hockey
legend Dhyan Chand.

Government of India has issued a commemorative postage stamp and a First Day Cover in honour of
Dhyan Chand. He remains the only Indian hockey player to have a stamp in his honour.

In 1956, at the age of 51, he retired from the army with the rank of Major. After he retired he coached for
a while, then settled in his beloved Jhansi. However, the last days of Dhyan Chand were not very happy,
as he was short of money and was badly ignored by the nation. Once he went to a tournament in
Ahmedabad and they turned him away not knowing who he was. He developed liver cancer, and was
sent to a general ward at the AIIMS, New Delhi.

Dhyan Chand was among the nominees considered for India’s highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, for
2014 and there was support for it.The award was then given to Sachin Tendulkar and C. N. R. Rao.The
family members of Dhyan Chand were disappointed with government decision.The RTI was filed which
suggested that the Prime Minister’s Office had ignored the recommendation from sports ministry on
giving the award over Sachin Tendulkar.

Dhyan Chand was the leading goal-scorer at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics with 14 goals. A news
report about India’s victory said “This is not a game of hockey, but magic. Dhyan Chand is, in fact, the
magician of hockey.”

Interesting facts

Even though Dhyan Chand was involved in many memorable matches, he considers a particular hockey
match to be his best. “If anybody asked me which was the best match that I played in, I will
unhesitatingly say that it was the 1933 Beighton Cup final between Calcutta Customs and Jhansi
Heroes.”

In the 1932 Summer Olympics, India beat USA 24-1 and Japan 11-1. Dhyan Chand scored 12 goals
while his brother Roop Singh netted 13 out of the 35 goals India scored. This led to them being dubbed
the ‘hockey twins’.

After India’s first match at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, people watching other sporting events thronged to
the hockey stadium. A German newspaper carried a banner headline: ‘The Olympic complex now has a
magic show too.’ The whole city of Berlin had posters: “Visit the hockey stadium to watch the Indian
magician Dhyan Chand in action.”

Australian great Don Bradman met Dhyan Chand at Adelaide in 1935. After watching him play, Bradman
remarked, “He scores goals like runs in cricket”.

Hockey authorities in the Netherlands once broke his hockey stick to check if there was a magnet inside.

To honor Dhyan Chand, the residents of Vienna, Austria had set up a statue with four hands and four
hockey sticks, depicting his mastery in the game.

During a match with Germany in the 1936 Olympics, Dhyan Chand lost a tooth in a collision with the
particularly aggressive Germany goalkeeper Tito Warnholtz. Returning to the field after medical
attention, Dhyan Chand reportedly told the players to “teach a lesson” to the Germans by not scoring.
The Indians repeatedly took the ball to the German circle only to backpedal.

 

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