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Why he is the greatest
Known for his sublime goal-scoring laurels and extraordinary ball control, Dhyan Chand is regarded as the greatest field hockey player of all time. More so for earning three gold medals for India during the 1928, 1932 and 1936 Olympics, a feat that made India a force to reckon with in hockey. Having scored more than 400 goals during his international career, Dhyan Chand would go on to play till 1948, at which time he was 42.
Greatness was something Dhyan Chand was destined for. Initially his focus laying more on wrestling, it wasn't until the age of 14 that Dhyan Chand took up hockey and only on his maiden international tour of New Zealand in 1926, scored 10 goals out of 20 in one match. A year later, he would score 36 of 72 Indian goals in 10 matches at the London Folkestone Festival . In the final of the 1928 Olympics, Dhyan Chand netted two of the three Indian goals in the final against the Netherlands. He had also topped the chart with 14 goals. At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, Dhyan Chand scored 12 goals in two matches as India won gold again. A third straight Hockey title at the Games was captured when he took the field barefoot in the second half of the final against Germany and helped India win 8-1.
In honour of Dhyan Chand, his birthday August 29 is also celebrated as National Sports Day, when various sporting honours are bestowed upon athletes from India.
He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1956 by the Indian government for his splendid contribution to Indian hockey.
Ronojoy Sen | TNN
From the archives of The Times of India: 2008
At the Berlin Olympics, the Indians, with Dhyan Chand carrying the flag, were by far the most colourfully dressed of the contingents on show. A member of the Indian team noted, “With our golden kullahs and light blue turbans, our contingent appeared as members of a marriage procession of some rich Hindu gentlemen, rather than competitors in the Olympic Games.” However, India caused a serious controversy by not offering the raised-arm salute to Hitler during the marchpast at the opening ceremony. The Indians were the only contingent, apart from the Americans, to not perform the salute as a mark of respect to the Nazi leader.
At the Games village, the Indians got to meet some famous Nazi personalities. Dhyan Chand has written, “One day we were in the dining hall, who should walk in but the burly Herman Goering, clad in his military attire! We were after him in a trice to get his autograph. Later some of us obtained Dr Goebbel’s autograph.”
India’s hockey supremacy was such that there were rumours in both Los Angeles and Berlin that the Indians were resorting to black magic. Speculation was rife that Indian forwards had worked magic on their sticks and were hiding the balls inside their turbans. The US captain’s comment in 1932 that for most of the game “they were chasing shadows” aptly summed up the nature of the encounter in which the Indians beat the Americans 24-1. Such prowess continued four years later in Berlin and finally an Indian player opened his turban to demonstrate to rival athletes that it was all skill and not a recourse to the supernatural that had won India three consecutive golds.
An idol and an angel
Dhyan Chand, instrumental in winning India golds at Amsterdam, LA and Berlin, was an idol in the hockey world of Europe. Germany held him dear, calling their best hockey player “the German Dhyan Chand”. At Prague a young lady insisted after a match on kissing India’s hockey wizard, a demand that made him extremely uncomfortable. “He is an angel,” she declared before kissing him.