Dhyan Chand – The Indian Hockey Player Who Stood up to Hitler’s Germany in His own Country

India is a country of unimaginable cricket craze; this post about Hockey legend is written when the entire nation is reeling under Indian Premium League- T-20 cricket fever.  In fact, today’s generation in India is in a dilemma on accepting Cricket or Hockey as a National game!

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Dhyan Chand known as ‘Wizard’ of Hockey for earning 1928, 1932 and 1936 Olympics gold medals to India is the personality of focus here. In fact, Dhyan Singh earned the nickname of Dhyan-‘Chand’– Singh meaning ‘Moon’ in the Hindi language for practicing game in the moonlight!  Today we play all games in artificial floodlight whereas in his days Dhyan Chand had only one infrastructure to play in the night that was MOON-LIGHT.

As in the case of all legends, Dhyan Chand’s life story also has amazing incidences, and his is a journey of struggle and hardship to reach the pinnacle of glory. Dhyan Chand prime career belongs to the pre-independent era of India. Winning three successive gold medals in Olympics, that too when India had no other sports in its armory to secure a medal at Olympics is not a meager achievement. Lets us delve into various facets of Dhyan Chand’s achievements as a sportsperson, army personnel, and a true human being.

Family & Childhood Days

Dhyan Chand was born on August 29 – 1905 at Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh to Sharadha Singh and Sameshwar Singh. His father was in the British army, and he had two siblings, Roop Singh and Mool Singh. Interestingly, though his father Sameshwar Singh was a hockey player in Army, Dhyan Chand had no inclination to any sports and was planning to be a wrestler. Dhyan Chand discontinued studies at the sixth standard as his family had to travel throughout the country due to job transfers. Dhyan Chand himself joined the army at an early age of 16. It is only after joining army the Hockey-Magician within Dhyan came to limelight, and he started playing for Army team.

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Crucial Role in Olympic Wins

Hockey was re-included in 1928 Amsterdam Summer Olympics after a lot of lobbying. India played in Group-A with Austria, Belgium, Denmark, and Switzerland. India defeated Netherlands in finals by 3-0 to win its first ever Olympic gold, and Dhyan Chand finished the tournament with 14 Goals as top scorer of the tourney. Most interesting fact is Indian goalkeeper Richard Allen was unbeaten in entire tournament as no country could score even a single goal against him.

Next is 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, First Game was against Japan and India won by 11-1 score. Whereas the final was against USA and India scored 24 goals against 1 from the USA, which was a world record of that time. In those 24 goals, Chand had scored eight times. Dhyan Chand along with his brother Roop Singh scored 25 out of 35 goals in the tournament! This made media to dub these two brothers as ‘Hockey Twins

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1936 Berlin Olympics was a special one for Dhyan Chand as he was appointed as Captain of the Indian team. A most shocking aspect of this Olympics was India’s defeat against Germany in a Practice match. Though the team withstood the defeat and entered into finals, Finals was again with Germans, and the previous defeat had made the teammates nervous.

According to reports from ‘The Hindu’ Newspaper, Germans restricted Indians to One goal in the first half, but in second half Dhyan Chand played the game by discarding Spike shoes with bare legs and rubber soles. In the second half, India started to lead. Hitler, who was watching the match was forced to leave the stadium halfway through the match as he just could not see his team lose. Finally, India won the game with an 8-1 lead, and Chand had contributed three goals. Though Media had misreported as Chand scored six goals, Dhyan Chand in his Autobiography “Goal” has mentioned the true figures that his contribution was only three goals.

Looking at this, German dictator Adolf Hitler offered Dhyan Chand German citizenship and a position in the German Military. The offer was humbly declined by Dhyan Chand.

True Human Being: Excerpts from Autobiography- ‘Goal.’

Dhyan Chand was humble person throughout his career, and his autobiography clearly provides numerous incidences of Humanity this Wizard possessed within himself.

Two incidences are worth mentioning here: Dhyan Chand wholeheartedly remembers two of his teammates Syed Mohammad Jaffar lost his life in an accident at a lake while hunting ducks and Masud Minhas lost his life to Tuberculosis.

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According to Dhyan Chand, unlike Cricket, Hockey is a game without statistician and statistics support. Also if we have to define Hockey in his words, it goes like this “Hockey is a game of great skill. To play it well is an art by itself. It calls for intelligence, keen eyes, powerful wrists, physical fitness and speed of mind and body. It also calls for great sportsmanship, tolerance, and coolness. In short, hockey demands the best in you, both as a player and as a man.”

Awards, Recognitions, and Interesting Facts

  • Dhyan Chand received ‘Padma Bhushan’ Award for his contribution to game of Hockey
  • His Birthday August 29th is celebrated as National Sports Day in India
  • Delhi Hockey Stadium is rechristened as National Dhyan Chand Hockey Stadium
  • Legend says, In Netherland Airport officials had broken Chand’s hockey stick to search for hidden magnet
  • According to Don Bradman, Great Cricketing giant of Australia Dhyan Chand scores goals as easily as scoring runs in cricket
  • Surprisingly according to Dhyan Chand 1933 Beighton Cup final between Calcutta Customs and Jhansi Heroes is the best game played by him.
  • He scored over 400 goals in his career, from 1926 to 1948.

Controversy haunts humble personalities too

Though Dhyan Chand was humble and down to earth person throughout his life, his name was pulled unnecessarily in ‘Bharata Ratna’ (Highest Civilian Award from Indian Govt.) nomination controversy. People started projecting this as Sachin Tendulkar Vs Dhyan Chand debate. As Dhyan Chand remained a true human being throughout his life without cribbing for any limelight or celebrity status no award can match his simplicity. However, Dhyan Chand was honored with Padma Bhushan in 1956.

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At the end

Weakened from liver cancer, he went to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. He was getting by on a pension of Rs 200. Since no one recognized him, he was placed in the general ward and died 12 days later on 3rd December 1979. Two months before, he had expressed his disappointment at being neglected.  “When I die, the world will cry, but India’s people will not shed a tear for me, I know them,” he said.




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