15th August 1936, was the most remarkable day in the history of Indian Field Hockey. The stadium was jam packed to witness the fifth edition of Field Hockey at the Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. There was this man from India who drove huge crowds to the ground, made headlines in the German newspaper the Indian magician Dhyan Chand in action. The final match between India and Germany was about to begin, Major Dhyan Chand was in his best form. Surprisingly, in the second half of the match, Major Dhyan Chand and Legendary Player Roop Singh removed their shoes and played barefoot for 35 minutes to get control of the ground. India won the match by defeating Germany with a score of 8-1 and rest is history.
Dhyan Chand’s skills and great performance in the game against Germany, impressed Hitler to such an extent that he offered him German citizenship and the rank of colonel in his army, but Dhyan Chand denied the offer. Apart from being a legendary hockey player, he was a true patriot. It was his sheer brilliance that India was unbeatable in the game of hockey for more than a decade. He always said ‘It is not my country’s duty to push me ahead. It is my duty to push my country ahead’.
Chand was such a magical hockey player that if the ball once struck his stick, it would leave only after scoring the goal. This was the reason that once in the Netherlands, the authorities broke Dhyan Chand’s hockey stick to check for the possibility of having a magnet inside the hockey stick.
National Sports Day is celebrated on August 29 every year marking the birth anniversary of this legendary Hockey player Major Dhyan Chand. Major Dhyan Chand was born on 29 August 1905, in Allahabad (now Prayagraj), Uttar Pradesh.Initially, young Dhyan had no serious interest in sports. As a young 14 year old, he once accompanied his father to watch a hockey match. After watching a team lose by 2 goals, he asked his father permission to play from the losing side. His father agreed, and Dhyan scored four goals in that match. The Army officials were so impressed by his performance that they offered him to join the army.
After joining the Indian Army at a young age in 1922, he started playing the army hockey tournaments and the regimental games. Eventually, his outstanding performance in the games brought his hidden potential into the limelight. His remarkable capabilities were noticed by Subedar-Major Bale Tiwari ; who went on to become his mentor and helped him improve his game.
The legendary hockey player was a part of the Olympic gold medal winning Indian Hockey Team during 1928, 1932, and 1936. Dhyan Chand scored more than 400 international goals and nearly 1,000 goals in his entire career. He was the most successful captain of the Indian Hockey team. Chand as he was fondly called by his teammates was the man who mesmerized everyone with his extraordinary goal-scoring feats and superb control over the ball. His outstanding performance, promoted him to the rank of Nayak, Subedar and eventually Major.
Gurbux Singh, a former field hockey player, Arjuna awardee recalls that Dhyan Chand was the most complete player ever born in the history of Indian hockey.
The Indian government awarded him “Padma Bhushan” – India’s third-highest civilian honour in 1956 for his wonderful tribute to India. A commemorative postage stamp and a First Day Cover in his honour were also issued. He thus, remains the only Indian hockey player to have a stamp. On December 3, 1979, Chand died in AIIMS, New Delhi due to liver cancer and marked the end of a golden era.
Every year, on National Sports Day, the President of India confers the various National Sports Awards to present and budding athletes who have made India proud all over the world. Among all, Dhyan Chand Award is the highest award for Lifetime Achievement in sports in India. Also, legends of various sports are remembered to ignite the fire and passion within the players. This helps in motivating and educating India’s youth on the importance of being fit and healthy, by practicing sports and other physical activities.