India has a deep connection with its national game, hockey. Although not much highlighted, hockey has brought a lot of pride to India. Recently, the Indian men’s hockey team won the bronze medal in Tokyo Olympics 2021. Following this great event, the Indian government changed the highest sports award, “Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award,” to “Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award” on 6th August 2021 after receiving requests from all across the country.
1928-1956 was when India used to dominate world hockey and made India standout at the International level. India won 6 gold medals in a row from 1928 – 1956 and gave an unbeatable performance at the Olympics Games. There was a wizard behind all of this who used to create the magic on the Hockey field.
Major Dhyan Chand, an army man and a phenomenal hockey player, was known worldwide for his excellent ball control. He was the one who showed the vision to the people of India, that even they are capable of representing India at an International level back when India was still under British rule. So let’s take a closer look at how an ordinary army man came to be known as “The wizard of Indian Hockey.”
Not many people know that Major Dhyan Chand’s real name was Dhyan Singh. He was born in Allahabad to Shraddha Singh and Someshwar Singh, who worked in the British Indian Army.
Initially, he had no severe inclination towards sports, but he loved wrestling. He said he did not even remember if he played hockey before joining the Army. He joined the Army when he was 17 and started playing army hockey tournaments and regimental games. He made way for the Indian Army’s hockey team to the New Zealand tour in 1926. They won 18 matches, drew two, and lost only one match. This remarkable performance got him selected for the Indian Hockey team for the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam.
In the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics, India defeated Germany by 8-1and bagged the gold medal. However, even that one goal made by Germany was incidental, and in fact, was the only goal against India in the entire Olympics. Such was the magic of “The Wizard” Major Dhyan Chand.
Adolf Hitler even ordered the officials to cross-check his hockey stick for any magnets but couldn’t find anything. He was so amazed that he even requested him to play for Germany along with the offer of providing him German citizenship and a position of a colonel in the German Army. Major Dhyaan Chand refused the offer as he was a patriot at heart.
He played his last international match in 1948 against the Netherlands and decided to take a retirement from “serious hockey.” In 1956 he retired from the Indian Army as a lieutenant and was honored with the Padma Bhushan India’s third-highest civilian award.
He taught at coaching camps at Mount Abu, Rajasthan. Later he was offered the position of Chief Hockey Coach at the National Institute of sports.
Major Chand died of Liver Cancer on 3rd December 1979 at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Since then, his birthday, 29th August, is celebrated as the National Sports Day of India.
Legends like Major Dhyan Chand are born only once, but their legacy goes on forever.