India@75: Dhyan Chand, the greatest hockey wizard the world ever saw
Dhyan Chand led India to win three Olympic golds in a row-1928, 1932, and 1936. The winning streak continued until 1960 and India remained hockey's unquestioned emperor.
A nation's self-confidence and resistance are fuelled not by politics or culture, but science and sports too. British colonizers believed and propagated that they were far superior to Indians in every respect; thought, action, arts, sports and physical power.
Even many Indians too found themselves inferior, and kept away from the national movement thinking it was impossible to fight the British empire. It was at such a juncture that the Indian hockey team won gold thrice in a row at Olympic Games. It stunned the world and raised Indians' self-confidence to the skies.
The chief architect of this historic achievement was Dhyan Chand, India’s hockey wizard and the world's greatest hockey player ever. He led India to win three Olympic golds in a row-1928, 1932, and 1936. The winning streak continued until 1960 and India remained hockey's unquestioned emperor.
The Indian team for 1928's Olympics at Amsterdam in Holland was led by Jaipal Singh Munda a tribal youngster and consisted of 9 Anglo Indians and 7 Indians, including Dhyan Chand.
On the way to Amsterdam, the Indian team had a layover in London when they defeated the English Olympic team in an exhibition match which stunned Britain which even decided not to partake in the Olympics. Conquering their political masters in their own soil was a phenomenal booster for India.
After defeating four European powers one by one, India’s final was against the hosts, Holland on 28th March. More than three lakh Dutch fans had assembled for the final and India's hero Dhyan Chand was sick and another star Firoze out with injury.
Yet, Dhyan played like a wizard to score the brace in India's 3 goals and win the gold. The Allahabad-born soldier Dhyan Chand was the meet’s top scorer with 14 of the 29 goals India scored.
This victory electrified India. That India can beat the Europeans was proved and energised the nationalist movement. If there were only three persons to see off Indian team sailing to Amsterdam, thousands turned up to receive them coming with the gold medal.
The 1932 Los Angeles Olympics was attended by a lesser number of countries due to the Great Depression. India first defeated the USA 24-1 and Japan in the final 11-1. The next Olympics was in Germany’s Berlin when Adolf Hitler was in full might. Hitler wanted Berlin Olympics to prove his theory of Aryan racial superiority.
India was led by Dhyan Chand. His brother Roop Singh was another star. A defeat against Germany in a pre-Olympic trial match had upset India. But once the Games began, Indian regained its touch. In the final, India blasted the mighty hosts Germany itself 8-1 to win the gold. Six of them belonged to the 31-year-old captain, Dhyan Chand.
According to reports, Hitler was so impressed by the Indian wizard and offered him citizenship and a job which he politely refused as he said he can't leave India.
This legendary victory went a long way to energize the national movement at a time when it had intensified the struggle against colonial hegemony.