What did the country give to ‘Dadda’ who rejected Hitler’s respect?

Hockey’s magician Major Dhyan Chand’s birthday is celebrated as Sports Day.

National Sports Day: Today is Sports Day. Thankfully, the tradition of celebrating the birthday of hockey wizard Major Dhyan Chand as Sports Day has been maintained. I am saying ‘Thankfully’ because political gains and losses have made many personalities Bharat Ratna, but the country has not been able to give that player the respect even today, which even the world’s biggest dictator Adolf Hitler had turned down the offer. It is the year 1936. The date was August 15. There were still 11 years left for the birth of the world’s largest democracy. Hosts Germany and India were face to face in the hockey final match of Berlin Olympics.

Adolf Hitler was also present in the stadium. The German team always wanted to win the match. The players got down on the push. Dhyanchand lost his teeth after colliding with German goalkeeper Tito Warnholtz. But he returned to the field early. Under the captaincy of Dhyan Chand, India trampled Germany 8-1. Three goals were scored by Dhyan Chand and two goals by his brother Roop Singh. A minor Major of the British-Indian Army crushed Hitler’s heart that day. Hitler offered Dhyanchand German citizenship and a colonel in the German army, which the 31-year-old Dhyanchand politely declined. In the Berlin Olympics, India scored 38 goals and ate only one goal. 11 goals came off Dhyan Chand’s stick. Dhyan Chand scored 59 goals out of 175 on the first international tours of the Berlin Olympics.

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About a decade before the Berlin Olympics, Dhyan Chand’s dang started ringing. In the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, Dhyan Chand scored 14 goals in 5 matches. In the final, India won the gold medal by defeating host Holland 3-0. Dhyanchand scored two goals. Then he was only 23 years old. Four years later, in the pre-Olympic tour of 1932, India scored 338 goals. Among them Dhyan Chand scored 133 goals. He scored 19 out of 35 goals in the Los Angeles Olympics. In the final, India won the gold medal by defeating hosts America 24-1. After 8 goals, the reign of Dhyan Chand was established in the world of hockey.

He scored more than 400 goals in his international career. He has three Olympic gold medals to his name. There are many funny stories related to Dhyan Chand. Once he was not able to score a goal in a match. He measured the width of the goal post which turned out to be less. It is said that the ball used to stick to his stick like a magnet. In the Netherlands, officials tried to see if there was a magnet in it by breaking his stick. In 1947, East Africa invited the Indian team. But along with the condition put that there is no need to come without Dhyanchand.

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Pele in football, Mohammad Ali in boxing and Sir Don Bradman in cricket have the same status as Major Dhyan Chand in hockey. In 1935, the Indian team went on a tour of Australia and New Zealand. Then Dhyan Chand met Don Bradman. Bradman said, “You score at the same speed as a batsman scores runs in cricket.” Positioning, deflection, team spirit and speed make him the best hockey player of all time. Dadda played for 44 years and his edge remained intact till the end. The world still respects him. In the Aligarh Muslim University where he studied, even today a hostel is named after him. The name of the Astoturf pitch of the Indian Gymkhana Club in London is Dhyan Chand Turf. During the 2012 London Olympics, a metro station was named after Dhyan Chand.

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Born in Allahabad in 1905, Major Dhyan Chand was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1956. Every year on his birthday, 29 August, the President of the country bestows sports honors on players and coaches. After his retirement from the Indian Army in 1951, he remained a coach for a few days. The last days of life were spent in deprivation and troubles. He passed away in 1979 while fighting liver cancer in AIIMS, Delhi. The question is, what did the country give to Dadda even after winning three Olympic gold?

Sanjay Kishor is the Deputy Editor in the Sports Department of NDTV.


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