Dhyan Chand Singh was born on the 29th of August 1905 at Prayag (Allahabad), Uttar Pradesh to a Bais Rajput family, was an Indian Hockey player, and considered to be the all time greatest player the game of Hockey has ever seen the world over. He has probably been the only Indian player ever in any sport which skills so high that generated a number of myths about his abilities as a Hockey player.
A legendary center-forward, he is remembered for his goal-scoring feats, first as a player and later as captain. Chand won 3 Olympic gold medals (1928 Amsterdam, 1932 Los Angeles, 1936 Berlin) and was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian honour, in 1956. He was the elder brother of equally famous fellow player Roop Singh.
He got the title or Chand (literally Moon) from his first coach, Pankaj Gupta, who had predicted that he would one day shine like one. Even today, Chand remains a figure of veneration, and a number of legends about him are famous in the realm of Indian sport.
His father Sameshwar Dutt Singh was in the Indian Army and played hockey in the army. Chand had two brothers – Mool Singh, and Roop Singh . Because of his father’s numerous army transfers, the family kept moving to different cities and as such Singh could not study. He thus had to terminate his education after class six. The family finally settled in Jhansi. Being in the military, Singh’s father got a small piece of land for a house.
Young Dhyan 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, in 1922 . Subedar-Major Bale Tiwari noticed his dribbling skills. A keen enthusiast of the game, Tiwari recognised the Chand’s talent. He became his mentor and laid the foundations of his game.
There are many incidents that describe the grandeur of Dhyan Chand’s amazing skills as a wonderful Hockey player. In one of them, he scored 3 goals in the last 4 minutes of a match wherein his team was losing by 2 goals, and got his team the victory in the match. This was the Final match of the Punjab Infantry Tournament in Jhelum. After this match, Dhyan Chand was named the “Hockey Wizard”.
Dhyan Chand delivered brilliant performance in the first Inter-Provincial (National) Hockey tournament that was organized in the year 1925. Five teams, viz. United Provices (UP), Punjab, Bengal, Rajputana and Central Provinces participated in the tournament. On the basis of his performance in the tournament, he was selected for the International Hockey team of India.
In the year 1926 Dhyan Chand was selected for the Indian Hockey team going to visit New Zealand at a tour. During the tour, the Indian team scored 20 goals in a match played at Dannkerke, and Dhyan Chand alone had scored 10 of them. India played 21 matches on the tour, out of which it won 18, lost 1 and drew 2 matches. The team scored a total number of 192 goals and Dhyan Chand alone had scored over 100 of them. After his return to India, he was promoted to the post of Lance Nayak in the Army. At the London Folkstone Festival in 1927, he scored 36 goals out of India’s total 72 goals, in 10 matches played at the event.
He played for the Indian Hockey team in the Amsterdam Olympic Games 1928, and scored 2 out of the 3 goals in the final match against Netherlands, getting India the Gold Medal by a 3-0 win. In the Los Angeles Olympics 1932, the Indian team led by Lal Shah Bukhari again won the Gold Medal. In the tournament, the Indian Hockey team defeated the USA Hockey team by 23-1, which remained a world record until it was broken in the year 2003. Out of these 23 goals, 8 were scored alone by Dhyan Chand. In the event, Dhyan Chand scored 12 goals for India in 2 matches.
In the Berlin Olympics 1932, Indian had successfully treaded their path to the finals crushing Hungary by 4-0, USA by 7-0 and Japan 9-0 without conceding a single goal in the tournament. The team defeated France in the Semi-Finals by 10 goals, and was going to combat Germany in the Finals. In the Final match, the Indian squad could score only 1 goal till the interval. Dhyan Chand removed his shoes in the interval and played the match barefooted onwards. The Indian team won the match and the Gold medal by 8-1.
Adolf Hitler, the German dictator supposedly offered Dhyan Chand a higher post in the German Army than the one he was holding in the Indian Army, but he politely denied the offer.
He kept playing till the age of 42 years, and retired from the game in the year 1948. Dhyan Chand met Don Bradman, the Cricket Maestro at Adelaide in the year 1935. After watching him play Hockey, Bradman commented “He scores goals like runs in Cricket.”
The last days of Dhyan Chand were not very happy, as he was short of money and was badly ignored by the nation. He developed liver cancer, and was sent to a general ward at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. He died on the 3rd of December 1979.
For his extra-ordinary services to the nation, the Government of India celebrates Dhyan Chand’s birthday (29th of August) as National Sports Day. The Indian Postal Service issued a postage stamp in his memory, and the Dhyan Chand National Stadium at New Delhi has been named after him. He was honored by the Padma Bhushan award by the Government of India in the year 1956.