Autobiography of Hockey Wizard Dhyan Chand
Published by Sport & Pastime, Chennai, 1952
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| The Kaiser was spending his last days
in exile in Doorn, and we wanted to see the man who reputedly was responsible for
World War I.
When we neared the Kaiser's estate, we saw a burly sentry on guard. His stony glare and statue-like posture was not inviting. We had a desire to watch the Kaiser engaged in his favourite pastime of chopping wood. But with such precautions around him, we thought it fit to retreat without completing our mission.
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am not sure of the exact date we crossed the English Channel, and the exact date we reached the Low Country, but we arrived in Amsterdam on April 24, 1928. We played four matches in Holland, two in Germany and one in Belgium before we actually made our debut in the Olympic Stadium on May 17, 1928.
We opened our Continental itinerary on April 26 with a match against Amsterdam XI, which we won 15-2. It was only a short run from Amsterdam to Arnheim where our next match was played and which we won by eight clear goals. The Dutch hockey authorities fielded their second Olympic XI in a match on May 2 in Amsterdam, which also we won by a similar margin of 8 goals to nil. Later we journeyed to The Hague to meet the Dutch Olympic team in our last match in Holland, and won this match also with consummate ease with a score of 8 goals to 1.
We spent some time sightseeing in Holland before leaving for Germany and Belgium from where invitations had come. At The Hague we visited the International Court of Justice. I do not recollect whether the Court was then in session or not.
We also saw the picturesque palace of Queen Wilhelmina, with its well laid out lawns and gardens and crystal-clear sparkling pools of water. Holland, as the very name Low Country implies, has a good part of its hinterland below sea-level. A trip around those regions reminds one of Bengal or the southern state of Travancore. Holland is rich in pasture land, and is famous for its dairy products and fish.
Our manager Rosser and we ourselves wanted to visit the Kaiser's Doorn home, a few miles away from Amsterdam. The Kaiser was spending his last days in exile in Doorn, and we wanted very much to have a glimpse of the man who reputedly was responsible for World War I.
Pankaj Gupta took us for a drive through a small narrow village which lay on our way to Doorn. We saw Dutch women lining up the streets peddling fresh fish caught from the dykes. The Bengali that he is, Pankaj Gupta remarked that the sight reminded him very much of the villages in Bengal. These Dutch women in their colourful costumes and wooden shoes presented a typical rural Dutch scene.
When we neared the Kaiser's estate, we saw a burly sentry on guard at the gate. His stony glare and statue-like posture was not inviting enough for us to make further progress. We all had believed that the Kaiser lived in obscurity, and it would be easy for us to gatecrash into his presence. We had a desire to watch the Kaiser engaged in his favourite pastime of chopping wood. But with such precautions around him, we thought it fit to retreat without completing our mission.
An invitation came from the Deutsche Hockey Bund (German Hockey Federation) to play two matches in Hanover and Berlin which we gladly accepted, even though our players were not one hundred percent fit. We had a keen desire to visit Kaiser's Berlin; neither the Berliners nor the Germans as a whole knew of any Adolf Hitler then.
We played our first match in Germany at Hanover on May 7, beating a home team by ten clear goals. From Hanover we travelled to Berlin where on May 8 we defeated a Berlin XI by five goals to one. It was an exciting game. Lots of burly tactics, physical force and 'flogging' were features of German hockey as I saw it then.
From Berlin we crossed over to Belgium for our fixtures there. The journey along the famous Rhine river fascinated some members of our team who had a poetic frame of mind. Brussels, the capital of Belgium, impressed me. Brussels is a small and picturesque city, and some of its churches are old and famous.
We met a Brussels team on May 13, beating them by ten goals to two. We had a mind to visit Antwerp which is close to Brussels, but could not do so because the time at our disposal was short. Antwerp is the city where the first post-war Olympics was staged in 1920. We returned to Amsterdam on May 14 and rested for three days before playing our first game in the Olympic arena on May 17.
The short pre-Olympic trips to Holland, Germany and Belgium enabled us to get acclimatised to Continental conditions. The climate in the Low Countries is not so uncertain or as wet as in England. Grounds were also better in a way, but I wondered why the turf in England and in the Continent was not kept properly trimmed. The long grass proved a handicap to us as progress of the ball was slowed, and our game of flick and push against our opponent's game of hit and run suffered considerably.
The 1928 Olympiad was the ninth of its kind, and it was at the request of the Indian Hockey Federation that hockey had been re-introduced in the Amsterdam Games. All these years our country was looking for an opportunity to demonstrate to the world her prowess in the world's finest amateur game. You, therefore, will understand how eagerly and with what thoughts we awaited the day to dawn on May 17.
The three days prior to our opening Olympic fixture were spent quietly in our hotel in Amsterdam. Language was the chief obstacle and in spite of our best efforts, we could hardly be good mixers in social circles. Fashionable Dutch lasses, hockey enthusiasts all, flocked around us and wanted to fete us. But, as I have already narrated earlier, I kept myself strictly aloof.
The day of our dreams dawned. On May 17 we confidently marched into the stadium to make our Olympic debut. We had travelled thousands of miles for this purpose. People at home had their doubts as to the wisdom of India's participation in the Olympic Games. We too had our misgivings till then, but on this day we had no doubts whatsoever. We were determined to show the world that in this game India was supreme.
The weather was fine and we met Austria in our opening match. The game was a tame one and we beat our opponents by six clear goals. Never was there a moment when Austria was on top. I have a dim recollection that I scored four goals in this match, Shaukat Ali and Gateley taking credit for the other two. How I wish manager Rosser were alive today? He could have very well supplemented the statistical side of these memoirs.
The next fixture was on May 18 when we met Belgium in the second round. We had a number of changes in our team. Jaipal Singh played his first match in the Olympic Games on this day, and he partnered Rocque. There were a few replacements and shuffling of players, but the outcome of play on this day was again in no doubt. We beat Belgium by nine clear goals, and thus qualified to meet Denmark in the next fixture.
After a day's rest we faced Denmark on May 20. We fielded the same team that played Belgium for the match against Denmark The Danish defence gave a sterling display, particularly their stout and hefty goalkeeper who did give me a tough time, stopping many of my efforts which I thought were sure winners. We beat Denmark by five goals to nil, thus achieving a hat-trick of victories.
In three successive fixtures in the Olympics no goal was scored against us. We kept up this tradition in the following two matches also. After Denmark we had to meet Switzerland in the semi-finals on May 22. We beat our opponents by six goals to nil.
With our victory over Switzerland we qualified for the final against Holland which took place on May 26. We beat Holland by three clear goals to win the Olympic title. At this distant date, I still vividly remember the tense circumstances under which India took the field on May 26 to win the highest laurels in world hockey.
It was a sadly depleted team that opposed Holland in the final. Feroze Khan, Shaukat Ali and Kher Singh were on the sick list, and Jaipal Singh was not available. I have already narrated in an earlier chapter how Jaipal Singh's disappearance in the most crucial game still remains a mystery. Poor Kher Singh could not participate in a single game in the Olympics. He had injured his knee earlier. Look at the skeleton side that was fielded in the final: Allen; Rocque and Hammond; Norris, Pinniger and Yusuf; Gateley, Marthins, Dhyan Chand, Seaman and Cullen.
I myself was ill, running a high temperature which persisted all through the game. For me there was no option. I was a soldier by profession and when the country's honour was at stake, there was no alternative but to march boldly into the battlefield. That day our manager coined a slogan for us, "Do or Die." I decided that if required I would die playing.
With such odds against us, led by captain Pinniger on whom Jaipal Singh's mantle fell, we entered the field amidst thunderous cheers from a large crowd. With their own national team playing, the Dutch turned out in large numbers and the stands were full. It was a great game and the fine traditions of Indian hockey were demonstrated to the world.
Holland put up a very good fight. I was amazed to see them play considerably better than they did in the prior practice match against us. They too had adopted, it appeared, "Do or Die" tactics. In a way we were their masters in this game, and although we scored only three goals, our superiority was in evidence in all departments.
Our goalkeeper Allen created a record, namely that not a single goal was scored against him in all the five Olympic matches that we played. I used to wonder at times what would have happened to us if Allen happened to get injured. Possibly Shaukat Ali, who played in almost every position, would have been asked to take his place.
Thus on May 26, 1928, India was acknowledged throughout the world as the Olympic hockey champions. On May 29 we lined up at the Olympic Stadium to receive our gold medals, and believe me, that day our happiness knew no bounds.
The hockey matches were played in May, although the actual Olympic ceremony and other sporting events took place according to schedule two months later towards the end of July. As a result, we did not have the good fortune of enjoying the Olympic atmosphere, the solemn rituals of the opening ceremony and the subsequent thrills and excitement.
Manager Rosser submitted a report to the IHF at the end of tour which stated:
"The exhibition of hockey given by the Indian team impressed and fascinated the countries of Europe. Apart from their wonderful eye, nimbleness, unselfish play, quick movements and teamwork, their display of scientific hockey showed what was possible in this great amateur game.
The main features of Indian hockey that impressed the English and Continental players were: positional play; combination of the fowards with the half-backs and the latter with the full-backs; the tackle back, quick movements and first-time passes, deft stickwork both in attack and in defence; quickness, dash and anticipation; frequent use of the hand to stop the ball; and the feint to baffle the defence.
Hockey as played in India is the creme de la creme of what first class hockey really should be."
After our triumph we all felt that we had achieved something for our country. We were feted, entertained and lionized in Holland in a manner that I will never forget. In contrast, when we returned to England on our way back home, again the English took little or no notice of us. A reception was arranged for us by Indians resident in London which Rosser referred to in his report as sub judice. So I will refrain from further comment. I am still not aware how this matter ended. We spent a quiet holiday in London before embarking for home.
On our way back to India, at Marseilles, we met the Australian contingent of athletes who were to participate in the Olympic Games in July. We fraternised with the Australian athletes and there was a ring of sincerity and comradeship on the part of the Australians which won our hearts, and which was spontaneously reciprocated.
As we neared the shores of India, we recalled the three-man send-off accorded to us on March 10 at Mumbai and did not entertain much hope of a triumphant homecoming. But our apprehensions were soon relieved. Mumbai made amends for her earlier lapse and gave us a reception befitting Olympic champions.
There was a sea of heads cheering wildly at Mole station. Dr. G. V. Deshmukh, the famous surgeon and politician who was then the Mayor of Mumbai was present to accord us a civic reception. The Governor of Mumbai sent a representative with a congratulatory message. Among those present to receive us was Jamnadas Mehta, the colourful personality of Indian politics, and the late lamented Benjamin Guy Horniman.
It was a brave and happy team that faced a battery of cameras that day. We had a very pleasant time in Mumbai before we dispersed. Prior to being demobilised, the Olympic Champions played a friendly game with the Western India Hockey Association. We beat them by six goals to one, and thus avenged our defeat to them on March 4 prior to us leaving for the Amsterdam Olympics.
The Victorious 1928 Indian Olympic Hockey Team