Balbir Singh Sr. Donated Olympic Gold Medals For War Fund

Article by Saurabh Duggal, Photograph courtesy Col. B. N. Bali, published in Hindustan Times

egendary hockey player and triple Olympic gold medallist Balbir Singh Sr., who died on May 25, 2020, was a true nationalist. So great was his love for India that he did not think twice in donating his three Olympic gold medals to the China War Fund in October 1962.

"The country's troubled time was bigger than my Olympic medals. That's why I gave it to the national defence fund," Singh had said during one of his interviews.

Two years ago, when the hockey legend was battling for his life at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, an old photograph sent to his family by a retired Army officer revived some fond memories.

The photograph was from October 1962, when India was at war with China. Col. B. N. Bali (retd.), recalled witnessing a heart-touching moment.

"I was deputed in Punjab chief minister (CM) Partap Singh Kairon's office in October 1962 when Balbir Singh Sr. came to meet him. When I asked him why he needed to see the CM, he specified no reason. I thought maybe he had come to get some work of his done. But when he met Partap Singh Kairon, he offered his three Olympic gold medals (1948, 1952, 1956) for the China War Fund. This left everyone in the office, including the CM surprised, as nobody had given such a gracious donation before. Kairon refused to accept the medals, saying the medals were the country's pride. But Balbir Sr. said that the medals were the best he could offer, and on his insistence, the CM accepted them," recalled Bali.

"However, Kairon did not send the medals to the Prime Minister's Relief Fund, but told the staff to keep them in the office safe. After a couple of months, the CM returned the medals to Balbir Sr. and told him that these Olympic gold medals cannot be exchanged for money."

In 2017, when Col. Bali read in the newspaper that Panjab University had created a chair in the name of the hockey legend, he called the university office to get his contact number. "Eventually, I was able to get in touch with Balbir Sr., who was staying with his daughter. Later, when I came across the photograph of Balbir Sr. handing over the medals to Kairon, I gave the photograph to his family and told them about Balbirji's patriotism."

Balbir Sr. was part of the hockey team that won the independent India's first Olympic gold in 1948. A British colony till a year ago, India defeated Britain on their home turf and saw the tricolour of the newly independent nation being hoisted, in a country which ruled them for two centuries.

As a child I used to ask my father (Dalip Singh Dosanjh), who was a freedom fighter, what independence meant, and what we would get out of it," Balbir Sr. had said in an interview in 2018. "My father would reply that independence would give us our own identity, flag and pride forever. On the day of the Olympic final, when our flag was hoisted in front of thousands of Britons at the Wembley Stadium, I realised what independence meant. It was the proudest moment for me and for all Indians back home. When the national anthem was played and the flag was going up, I felt that I was flying. I am short of words to describe that glorious moment."

When Balbir Singh Sr. Offered Namaz With Aslam Sher Khan

Article by Olympian Aslam Sher Khan, courtesy The Indian Express

ormer India captain and Olympian Aslam Sher Khan shared his memories of three-time Olympic gold medallist Balbir Singh Sr., who passed away on May 25.

Speaking on the Express Sports podcast, Aslam Sher Khan recalled the day of the final of the 1975 hockey World Cup. The lone Muslim in the Indian team, Aslam was preparing for a trip to the mosque when Balbir stepped into his room.

"Beta (son), I'll also offer namaz with you," Balbir Sr. told Aslam.

"It was our strength that Allah, Waheguru and Bhagvan came together for India. We went to the mosque. Balbir Sr. wore a red turban. The bus was also carrying the Pakistan team members. His presence had an effect on the Pakistan team," Aslam said.

"Pakistan's hockey great Abdul Rashid Jr. turned to his teammates and said it would now be tough for Pakistan to win. Everybody asked why. Abdul said, "jab sardar pehli baar namaz padenga, toh allah unki pehle sunenge'. (When a Sikh offers namaz for the first time, god will listen to his prayers first)."

India beat Pakistan 2-1 to win their only hockey World Cup title.

Aslam further paid tribute to the hockey legend. "A sportsperson is outstanding when he excels both on and off the field. As a manager, Balbir Sr. put together a united Indian team, with the strength of all religions put together. He worked on that during the World Cup training camp at Chandigarh itself. He built a prayer room in the players' hostel for all religions," Aslam said.

Khan did not get to play in the league matches of the 1975 World Cup. During the semifinal against Malaysia, with the Indian team trailing, and only ten minutes remaining, manager Balbir Sr. and coach Gurcharan Singh Bodhi had an animated discussion over whether to replace Michael Kindo with Aslam. Balbir Sr. prevailed, and he held Aslam's face in his hands and said, "ja beta, ab tera khuda hi bharat ko bacha sakta hai."

Two minutes later, Khan's goal through a penalty corner ensured the match got tied at 2-2 and went into extra-time. Harcharan Singh scored the winner to take India to the final, and then to World Cup glory.

From Dhyan Chand To Rani Rampal - Top 5 Moments In Indian Hockey

Article courtesy Sportstar, Photo courtesy The Hindu

ndia made its Olympic hockey debut at the 1928 Amsterdam Games and reigned supreme for close to three decades, winning eight gold, one silver and two bronze medals. The achievements in hockey stand among the greatest in Indian sports history. Here are the top five Indian hockey's greatest moments.

1. 1928 Amsterdam Olympics Gold - Birth of the legend of Dhyan Chand

India was the first non-European country to gain an entry to the 1928 Amsterdam Games when hockey made a return to the Olympics. It served as a global announcement of India's might as a hockey powerhouse and Dhyan Chand as the country's first sporting icon.

India scored 31 goals and conceded none on its way to its first Olympic gold. India defeated host Netherlands 3-0 in the final, with Dhyan Chand scoring a brilliant hat-trick

2. 1948 London Olympics Gold - Emergence of Balbir Singh Sr.

The Indian team, led by mercurial winger Kishan Lal, set foot on English soil carrying the hopes of an independent nation and the scars of the partition. Star forward Balbir Singh Sr. had witnessed the horrors of partition while serving in Punjab Police.

The Indians did not put a foot wrong on the pitch as they outclassed Austria, Argentina and Spain to reach the semifinals. The Netherlands put up a good fight but India prevailed 2-1 to set up a final against England.

The Indians faced their colonisers of 200 years for the first time on August 12, 1948 at the Empire Stadium at Wembley. Skipper Kishan Lal and his deputy K. D. Singh 'Babu' decided to take off their shoes and play barefoot, as they supplied a pass each for Balbir's first-half brace. Trilochan Singh and Patrick Jansen added two more in the second half as India coasted to a 4-0 victory.

3. 2002 Commonwealth Games Women's Gold - The giant-killing machine

Indian women's hockey team was the dark horse going into the Manchester Games in 2002.

In the crossover match to reach the semi-finals, the team was down 0-3 against the rampaging South Africans, but roared back with four goals in the second half to reach the semis, where New Zealand awaited.

The Indian eves edged out higher-ranked New Zealand 2-1 to reach their first Commonwealth Games final. On 3rd August, 2002, M. K. Kaushik's team took to the pitch against a strong England team. Regular time ended 2-2. India had the better of exchanges in extra-time, and in the 78th minute, Mamata Kharab and Sita Gossain combined during a penalty corner to score the golden goal and seal victory.

The women's team's crowning achievement would serve as an inspiration for the beloved 2007 sports flick Chak de! India.

4. 1975 Kaula Lumpur World Cup win - Ashok Kumar's redemption

Team manager Balbir Singh Sr, a triple-Olympic champion, built the team around the motto - 'Regaining world supremacy is our goal' - which was painted on the wall of team dormitory at the training camp.

India began the tournament with a win, a draw and a loss: 2-1 win against England, 1-1 against Australia and lost 2-1 to Argentina. However, big victories against Ghana and West Germany helped it top Pool B and qualify for the semifinal.

India trailed host Malaysia twice in the semifinal before Harcharan Singh's goal in extra-time put Ajit Pal Singh's men set up a final against arch-rival Pakistan.

India trailed Pakistan 0-1 before Surjit Singh pulled the Indians level ten minutes into the second half. Fittingly enough, Ashok Kumar, son of legendary Dhyan Chand, scored the winner in the 51st minute, making up for his miss in the 1973 final.

Millions of Indians, tuned into their radio sets, celebrated wildly to Jasdev Singh's legendary booming voice on All India Radio. It remains India's only World Cup win till date.

5. 2019 Olympics Qualifiers - Rani Rampal's Golden Goal

Indian women's hockey team was the underdog going into the two-legged Olympic Qualifier at home against USA. Its head-to-head record was 4 wins to America's 22.

The first leg ended 5-1 in India's favour. Staring down the barrel, USA staged a blistering fightback in the second leg by making it 4-0 before half-time, and tieing 5-5 on aggregate.

During half time, India head coach Sjoerd Marijne told his players to forget everything that had happened until then, and prepare for a new match starting at 0-0.

The clean-slate worked wonders for the Indian women who regained their stride. With 11 minutes to go, Rani Rampal tilted the scales in India's favour when she pounced on a rebound on the edge of the circle. She paused for a moment, picked her spot and flicked the ball over the onrushing defenders and the goalkeeper's outstretched arms into the top right corner of the net. The Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar erupted.

Rani's goal sealed a 6-5 win on aggregate - Indian women's team's third Olympic appearance, and its first-ever back-to-back Olympic qualification.

Dhyan Chand: The Undisputed Magician Of World Hockey

Article by Mike Haymonds, courtesy The Hockey Paper

ur article in a previous The Hockey Paper edition described Stanley Shoveller as the greatest ever English hockey player. There is little doubt that the accolade of the greatest global player is deserved by Dhyan Chand of India.

Dhyan won gold medals at three Olympics - 1928 in Amsterdam, 1932 in Los Angeles and 1936 in Berlin (when he was captain). In Amsterdam he was top scorer with 14 goals in five matches; in Los Angeles he got 12 (while his brother Roop Singh scored 13) and in Berlin he bagged a hat-trick in the final in India's 8-1 victory over the hosts Germany.

But for the intervention of World War II, he could have played in one, or even two more Olympics. In 1928 one newspaper report read: "This is not a game of hockey, but magic. Dhyan Chand is in fact the magician of hockey."

Dhyan Singh was born in 1905 in Allahabad to a father who served in the British Indian Army. The family moved regularly because of army transfers, finally settling in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh. His name acquired the addition of "Chand" (moon in Hindi) because he used to practice in the moonlight.

His initial love was wrestling and he claimed he could not remember playing any hockey worth mentioning before he joined the army on his 17th birthday.

He made his international debut at 21 on the Indian Army's tour of New Zealand in 1926, and scored over 400 goals in his 22-year career (1926-1948).

At the Berlin Olympics it is claimed that Adolf Hitler was so impressed by Dhyan Chand that he offered him German citizenship and a position of colonel in the German army, which he declined.

In his later years he suffered ill health, eventually dying of liver cancer in 1979. Two months previously, unhappy at his treatment by his countrymen, government and the hockey federation, he said: "When I die, the world will cry but India's people will not shed a tear for me."

After the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour, was extended to sportspersons in 2011, Dhyan Chand was overlooked when the first sports recipient in 2014 was the cricketer Sachin Tendulkar. Dhyan Chand's family has declined to champion his name for the award, saying: "He is in no way second to any sportsman."

However, his national legendary status is maintained in India by the Dhyan Chand Award for a lifetime achievement in sport. India celebrates National Sports Day on his birthday, August 29. Also the National Stadium in Delhi was named the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium in 2002.

Photograph of the Month

Article by Dil Bahra, courtesy Sikhs in Hockey

he All-India Hockey Club's three-week Continental tour from 17th December, 1925 to 5th January, 1926 is believed to be the first British hockey club to tour Europe.

The Club's players were Indian student residents at various British Universities, with the main portion coming from Cambridge and London. The team had players from Manchester, Edinburgh and Oxford as well.

The All-India Club squad of fifteen left London on 17th December from Victoria Station and travelled to Brussels. They played matches in Brussels, Antwerp, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao and Madrid. The touring party returned on the 5th January - they were away from England for about three weeks.

Jaipal Singh, who studied at Oxford University from 1924-1926 was the secretary of the club and the main organiser of this trip. He was regarded as one of the best full-backs in the country at the time.

"Great interest was taken in our Spanish visit in December. Everywhere we had enormous crowds to welcome us. We won all our games in Spain. At present there are only about a dozen clubs in Spain," wrote Jaipal in Hockey World magazine on February 19, 1926.

Whilst still at Oxford, Jaipal was selected to captain India at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games.

It is interesting to note that the All-India Club toured Europe before any teams from India toured overseas. The Indian Army team that toured New Zealand in 1926 was the first overseas trip by a hockey team from India. This initiated the beginning of international hockey for India and the start of dominance in Olympic hockey from 1928.

The All-India Hockey Club tour to Europe comprised Jaipal Singh (Ranchi) Capt,; J. A. Fernandes (Bombay); J. S. C. Daver (Bombay); M. A. Beg (North West Frontier); V. Mahmood (Aligarh); R. Afzal (Calcutta); C. W. Little (Madras); A. A. Baig (Lahore); S. M. Yusuf (Punjab); N. U. Ahnad (Delhi); F. A. Ahmad (Rawalpindi); J. A. Admad (Rawalpindi); S. M. Sharif (Agra); P. M. Reddy (Hyderabad) and A. Ahmad (Aligarh).

Money Matters

Article by B. Shrikant, courtesy Hindustan Times

on-profit organisations Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) and Go Sports Foundation have jointly launched an online pan-India initiative to raise funds to support grassroots hockey, which has been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Through this "Let's Stick Together" initiative, the organisation aims to raise ₹20 lakh by July 15 to help 200 young players, coaches and staff struggling to make a living after sport was stopped to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Each beneficiary will get a one-time grant of ₹10,000. Donations can be made on the online platform

While the impact of Covid-19 is widespread, it has been particularly severe on those at the bottom of the pyramid in sport. "Let's Stick Together" is the brainchild of former India captain Viren Rasquinha, who was inspired by a similar initiative by Davis Cupper Somdev Devvarman who has raised funds for tennis ball kids and markers.

A conversation with former Mumbai player Conroy Remedios bolstered Rasquinha's resolve. Remedios is a former colleague who coaches the Bombay Republicans Hockey Club, supported by Dronacharya Award winner Murzaban Patel (Bava).

"I was just inquiring with Conroy about how the Bombay Republican boys were doing and he told me that the boys were in very bad shape. Someone's father is an auto rickshaw driver; someone's father sells fruits outside the Marine Lines station; someone's father is a barber. All these people have had zero earnings in the last three months, and were struggling to put food on the table. That really touched a chord within me. I wanted to do something for hockey, my sport, at the grassroots level," said Rasquinha.

He mentioned this to Nandan Kamath, founder and managing trustee of Go Sports Foundation, who offered to do it as a joint initiative. "We decided to support the most vulnerable section. These players are not part of any company, organisation, they are not part of SAI, Khelo India, India camp, nothing. These are young talented, deserving players but at the grassroots level. We have set a target of 200 beneficiaries and are trying to ensure that 25% of them are female," said Rasquinha.

"Dilip Tirkey will be helping identify beneficiaries in Odisha; Mr K. Arumugam, who runs One Thousand Hockey Legs, is helping in Delhi; Jude Felix Hockey Academy in Bangalore, Bharat Chikara, my colleague in the India team, in Haryana especially the girls there, and Sanggai Chanu in Manipur. If someone is deserving, we will try and help them," said Rasquinha, who played for Bombay Republicans, Air India and Indian Oil Corporation.

Media Matters

book on Indian hockey has come out after a while. 'GLORY AFTER GLOOM' by K. Arumugam is a journey with Indian women's hockey for the last 10 years. It chronicles each and every tournament the Indian women have taken part in since 2010, their highs and lows, and triumphs and defeats.

Each player's career, profile, entry and growth in the international area are presented with compassion. The book also highlights how select players evolved from newbies to mainstays of the Indian team. The second part of the chronicle is devoted to statistics.

The book can be read on your Kindle device, or on your computer, tablet or mobile device with the Kindle app. The book can be found on Amazon Kindle here.

Fun With Numbers

Statistics by B. G. Joshi

he July 2020 edition of Fun with Numbers is on goal scorers who played in at least 3 Olympic hockey finals, and scored at least one goal in any Olympic final.

  • India holds the record for most consecutive men's Olympic hockey finals at 8 (1928-G, 1932-G, 1936-G, 1948-G, 1953-G, 1956-G, 1960-S, 1964-G)
  • Netherlands holds the record for most consecutive women's Olympic hockey finals at 4 (2004-S, 2008-G, 2012-G, 2016-S)
  • Dhyan Chand is the only player to score in 3 Olympic hockey finals (1928 - 2 goals, 1932 - 4 goals, 1936 - 3 goals)
  • Balbir Singh Sr. holds the record for the highest number of goals in a single Olympic hockey final (1952 - 5 goals)
  • The goal scored by Randhir Singh Gentle in the 1956 Olympic hockey final was the only goal scored in the final, where India beat Pakistan 1-0
  • India and Pakistan met in 3 consecutive Olympic hockey finals (1956, 1960, 1964), all decided by one-goal margins, and have never again met in the final
  • *The match between India and Japan in the 1932 Olympics is considered as the final. There was no separate designated final match
Category Player Country Olympic Final Goals Scored
Men Dhyan Chand India 1928-G, 1932-G, 1936-G 9*
  Balbir Singh Sr. India 1948-G, 1952-G, 1956-G 7
  Randhir Singh Gentle India 1948-G, 1952-G, 1956-G 1
Women Maartje Pauman Netherlands 2008-G, 2012-G, 2016-S 2
  Naomi van As Netherlands 2008-G, 2012-G, 2016-S 1