Autobiography of Hockey Wizard Dhyan Chand
Published by Sport & Pastime, Chennai, 1952
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Arrival in California
|A local paper of Los Angeles wrote:
"All the colour, glamour and pageantry of Rudyard Kipling's India might well have
found its incarnation in the personnel of the Indian hockey team, which is to
represent the land of Mahatma Gandhi.
So agile are the members of the team that they can run the full length of the hockey field, juggling a small wooden ball with the flat of a hockey stick."
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he trip from Honolulu to America was not pleasant. As we neared the shores of America, cold winds began to blow. On July 6, the boat touched San Francisco for two days.
After the ship moored, press photographers came aboard and were busy photographing the various teams. When our turn came to be photographed, all the press photographers requested the Indian hockey team to pose specially. We were lined up on the deck in the form of a crescent. We enjoyed the publicity the next day in the newspapers, the prominence given to our pictures and the elaborate write-up.
With our coats and our turbans, the Americans must have felt that India had sent a team composed of the leading Maharajas of the country. In America, every Indian was a Hindu and every well-to-do Indian was a Maharaja.
A civic reception was given to the Olympic athletes, and we were presented with the key to the city by the mayor. We were granted the freedom of the city during the two days, and we took full advantage of this freedom.
San Pedro is a small harbour town on the Pacific coast of California, which is where we finally disembarked after a journey by ship that started 42 days ago. Customs and immigration formalities did not take much time, as being Olympic contenders, we were guests of honour and much of the usual procedure was curtailed.
We were met at the harbour by Ted Mumby, who had preceded us with his team of Indian athletes. Mumby, who was a professor in the Christian College in Lucknow, was the manager of the Indian athletic team. We used to call Mumby an Indian since he originally came from the state of Indiana in the United States.
N. C. Malik, the lone swimmer from India, was a Kolkata man who accompanied us. The athletes who accompanied Mumby were Sutton and Vernieux of Kolkata, and Mehr Chand of Lahore. India's Olympic contingent, therefore, consisted of one swimmer, three athletes and the hockey team. What a poor advertisement for a vast country like ours, comprising 400 million people!
The Organising Committee made excellent arrangements for our transport from San Pedro to Los Angeles, a distance of about 8 to 10 miles. The ride was very pleasant, through highways with a picturesque setting. Our first glimpse of the United States made a grand impression on us.
We were housed in the first rows of the cottages in the Olympic Village. Each cottage had two rooms with a small toilet. The cottages, I was told, could be put up in less than an hour and dismantled as easily.
There was a community dining hall and common bathrooms. The women athletes lived separately and were not allowed to enter our village.
The authorities assigned a national of each country to serve as attache to that country's contingent. Lal Chand Mehra of Punjab, who had settled down in California, became our guide and attache.
We arrived about three weeks before the Olympic Games began. In these few days, we kept ourselves fit, and practiced in the women's athletic stadium at the University of Southern California. We knew that the opposition from Japan and US would be feeble, but still we felt that we should keep ourselves in training.
I will never forget the Californian sunshine. As Pankaj Gupta very rightly remarked in one of his speeches, the California sun kisses where the Indian sun bites. We used to spend most of our time in the open, sun-bathing.
A local paper of Los Angeles wrote:
"All the colour, glamour and pageantry of Rudyard Kipling's India might well have found its incarnation in the personnel of the Indian hockey team, which is to represent the land of Mahatma Gandhi.
So agile are the members of the team that they can run the full length of the hockey field, juggling a small wooden ball with the flat of a hockey stick.
One who knows nothing of the rigours of hockey should take a warning here. Don't get in the line of fire on a hockey field, for the hockey ball, driven by a forehand or a backhand, is almost as deadly and as accurate as a cannon ball.
Should one doubt this, just let them watch the Indian players in their daily practice on the turf of the University."
America had never seen field hockey before. All the hockey they knew was ice-hockey. I do not think more than 100 men played hockey in the United States.
Whatever little hockey was played, was played on the Atlantic coast; to be more precise, in and around Philadelphia, where the game was introduced by the English.
Somebody told me that the English wives of some Americans introduced the game. I think that theory was correct because when I subsequently visited Philadelphia, I found great enthusiasm for hockey among the women. The thing that struck me the most was that all the press representatives who covered our matches in Philadelphia were women.
Poster from the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics Featuring the American Babe Didrikson