29 August in India is celebrated as the National Sports Day in India every year. The date is marked as the birthday of Indian hockey wizard Major Dhyanchand. He was widely regarded as the greatest hockey player of all time. The Wizard holds the record for more scoring 400 goals during his 20 years long international career. He won three Olympic gold medals in 1928, 1932 and 1936.
His goal scoring ability made the opposite defender look like a puppet. His control over the hockey stick was impossible and was always pin accurate about playing his shots. He mastered the art of finding the gaps and impeccable timing to score the goal with ease.
Some “Major” Facts About Dhyanchand
On his 113th birthday, let’s remember the legend of the game and his contribution to Indian hockey, his triumphs, failures, legacy and spat with the Indian Hockey Federation.
- Dhyanchand was born in Allahabad to Sameshwar Singh and Shraddha Singh on 29th August 1905. He died on December 3, 1979.
- He has 2 siblings, Roop Singh and Mool Singh. He was married to Janaki devi. His son name was Ashok kumar
- His first love was wrestling not Hockey
- He was a Major in the 2/14 Punjab regiment, Indian army.
- He was famously called Chand by his team members due to his late night practice sessions. Chand means moon in Hindi signifying night time.
- Dhyanchand started playing hockey in Jhansi.
- Dhyanchand played his first Olympic tournament in 1928 and scored 14 goals in 5 matches. A news report about Indian historic win published “This is not a game of hockey, but magic. Dhyanchand is, in fact, the magician of hockey.”
- Dhyanchand has played many historical matches during his career span, often called the golden period of Indian hockey, but his favorite game was Beighton Cup final between the Calcutta customs and Jhansi heroes in 1933.
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- He has scored 1000 goals in total, out of which 400 were scored in international matches. He has scored 109 goals in the Olympics.
- He was considered superior to Sir Donald Bradman in terms of popularity and impact of the game. Bradman was in awe of the legend and decided to watch him play. Both the legends finally met at Adelaide in 1935. Bradman said “He scores goals like runs in cricket”.
- During the last years, when life was slowly fading away from him, the legend was disillusioned and in complete disarray. He had bitter feelings for how the Hockey Federation, countrymen and the government treated him, even after earning unmatched accolades for the country. He lamented the players saying “Hindustan ki hockey khatam ho gayi hai. Khiladiyon mein devotion nahin hai. Will to win khatam ho gaya hai.”
- Once Hockey authorities in the Netherlands were suspicious about Dhyanchand genius, they expected some kind of magnet inside the hockey stick. So, they broke the stick trying to prove their point, but failed miserably.
- He played his last international hockey match in 1948
- Dhyanchand wasn’t a big fan of spikes shoes. During the 1936 World Cup final in Germany, he was finding hard to score goals and decided to put off the spikes shoes after the first half. He scored 3 goals in the second half running with bare foot.
- Dhyanchand was courageous, valiant and never bowed towards anyone except the national flag. In the 1936 Berlin Olympics, every flag bearer representing different nations was supposed to salute Adolf Hitler. Everyone agreed except Dhyanchand, he refused to salute Adolf Hitler.
- After 1936 Olympic final, Hitler was left spellbound by the splendid performance of Dhyanchand and offered him a senior post in the German army.
Dhyanchand Olympic Heroics
1928 Amsterdam Olympics
Dhyanchand first tour on foreign soil was the tour to New Zealand in 1926. The team won 18 matches out of 21 with 2 draws and 1 loss overall.
After an extraordinary debut, he was the first choice for the possible hockey team for Amsterdam Olympic 1928. While rest of the players played Inter-Provincial tournament for selection in National hockey team, Dhyanchand was already selected, although he did play for united provinces team.
The Indian hockey team played its first match against Austria and forced them to smell the barren land by beating them 6-0 in the match. Dhyanchand scored 4 goals in the match.
The next match was played against Belgium. Indian team won the match convincingly defeating Belgium 9-0. Although, Dhyanchand scored only 1 goal during the match.
The Indian hockey team easily won the quarter finals against Denmark and semi-finals against Switzerland scoring 7 goals out of 11.
India beat Holland in the final 3-0. Dhyanchand scored 2goals in the match. By the end of the Olympics, India was ranked number 1 in the rankings.
1932 United States Olympics
India was successful in retaining the Gold medal in the 1932 United States Olympics. India was involved in an historic win against Japan and USA. The world saw the domination of Dhyanchand and the rise of sibling Roop Singh on the hockey field.
India defeated Japan by a margin of 11-1. Dhyanchand scored 4 goals out of 8 goals during the match. The crowd was mesmerized with the magical display of the hockey sticks by the Indians. Japan journey to Olympic gold medal was halted.
Another major setback happened in a match between India and USA. USA was the hosting nation and was expected to perform above par, but jubilant Indian hockey team defeated USA with a margin of 24-1. Dhyanchand scored 8 goals in the match, but Roop singh stole the limelight by scoring 10 goals in the match.
1936 Berlin Olympics
When the 1936 Berlin Olympics were about to start, the world was at the brink of World War II. Indian hockey team entered the Berlin Olympics as a world hockey champion. It was the third and the last Olympic for Dhyanchand. He scored 11 goals in the 1936 Olympics. He eventually ended up winning 3 Gold in 1928, 32 and 36 grabbing the worldwide attention towards Indian hockey.
Accolades and Honors
- He is awarded with Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Arjuna award, Dronacharya Award.
- On 22 September 2012, the Gem of India was awarded to Late Major Dhyanchand by the Journalist Association of India.
- To honor the hockey legend the National stadium, Delhi was renamed as Dhyanchand National stadium in 2002.
- An Astroturf hockey pitch is dedicated to Dhyanchand at the Indian Gymkhana club in England
- A commemorative post stamp were issued by the government in the honor of Dhyanchand