Autobiography of Hockey Wizard Dhyan Chand
Published by Sport & Pastime, Chennai, 1952
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East African Interlude
|The entertainment and social side of our visit was
well looked after, and we were the recipients of a number of civic welcomes,
and there were also a number of lunches and dinners.
The national disaster that occurred in India on January 30, 1948, shocked the whole world, and British East Africa was no exception. For the mourning period, we cancelled all our social engagements.
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fter my return from Berlin, I had a holiday as usual at home before joining my regiment. Between 1936 and the commencement of the War in 1939, my activities on the hockey field were largely confined to army hockey, with one visit to Kolkata to take part in the Beighton Cup tournament in 1937. After the Beighton Cup, I spent four months in a military camp in Pachmarhi, the summer capital of the Central Provinces, where we had to attend a military class.
Towards the closing phases of the war, I had an opportunity to lead an army hockey team which toured around the battlefields in Manipur, Burma, the Far East and Ceylon. The sole idea was to provide entertainment to our fighting men. Even though there were no prizes to aspire for, I never lost my enthusiasm for the game.
When the war ended in 1945, I enjoyed some well-earned rest. The world was busy repairing the ravages of war, and I felt that the stick should not be denied its quota of rest. During this period I often got a feeling that in hockey I had reached the height of glory (where I had remained for almost two decades), and that it was now time to come down. I was getting convinced that India must seek new blood and not continue with the old brigade anymore.
While my mind was working in this direction, fate decided that my intentions were premature. In 1947, the IHF was requested by the Asian Sports Association (ASA) of East Africa to send a good hockey team to that country to play a series of matches. There was nothing unusual in such a request.
The unusual lay in the fact that the ASA made it a condition that I should be included in the team that the IHF would send. Our Indian brethren resident in East Africa were eager to see me play. I was ever happy to do my bit to make Indian nationals abroad feel that we at home do not forget them. It was therefore impossible to refuse this request, strange as it may seem.
Once again I was chosen captain of the team, which consisted of:
Goalkeepers: Leo Pinto (Bombay) and C. Francis (Madras)
Backs: Walter D'Souza (Bombay), R. S. Gentle (Delhi) and Mushtaq Ahmad (Bengal)
Half-Backs: Keshav Chandar Dutt (Bengal), B. Kapoor (Bengal), Maxie Vaz (Bombay) and Lt. Manna Singh (Gwalior)
Forwards: R. J. Carr (Bengal), Kunwar Digvijay Singh 'Babu' (Uttar Pradesh), Kishan Lal (Bombay), Pat Jansen (Bengal), Gurbachan Singh (Punjab), Rajagopal (Madras), Lt. A. Shakoor (Bhopal) and Lt. Dhyan Chand (Army)
Mr. S. K. Sinha (Bengal) was the manager and Mr. B. Pearce (Bombay) was his deputy. No less than nine players from the above team would be chosen for the 1948 Olympics in London. They were Pinto, Francis, D'Souza, Gentle, Dutt, Vaz, Digvijay Singh, Kishan Lal (captain) and Pat Jansen.
A circular received by us from the IHF President, Mr. Naval H. Tata, stated: "The East African Indians want to treat your team as an ambassadorial side visiting Africa, with a view to impressing the British East African population of the high standards of education, culture and the ability to mix freely with confidence in social circles. Your mission is not merely to win matches, but after giving a good account of your proficiency in the game, you are expected to leave a good name for your country by your good behaviour and self-discipline."
We assembled in Bombay on November 23, 1947, and sailed for East Africa on December 6. Whilst in the city, we played one match against a Bombay team and were defeated by two goals to one. Remembering that Bombay had defeated even an Olympic team, we were not too unhappy.
We reached Mombasa on December 15 and were accorded a great reception by the officials of the Asian Sports Association and Indian nationals there. The Governors of Kenya and Uganda colonies sent messages of welcome.
We played 28 matches in British East Africa and won all of them. Throughout our stay in British East Africa, our team was one happy family. The East African press chronicled our stay suitably and highly praised the sporting spirit shown by our boys. IHF president Tata's expectations, I can say, were fully realised.
The entertainment and social side of our visit was well looked after, and we were the recipients of a number of civic welcomes, and there were also a number of lunches and dinners. The national disaster that occurred in India on January 30, 1948, shocked the whole world, and British East Africa was no exception. For the mourning period, we cancelled all our social engagements.
Indians in East Africa, especially Mahan Singh, president of the Asian Sports Association, our sponsor, and his colleagues were very kind and generous. In many places we were accommodated by local Indian residents in their own homes, and we came to know intimately their way of life.
The individual goal-getters in the tour were as follows:
|Player||Games Played||Goals Scored|
|Lt. Dhyan Chand||22||61|
|Pat A. Jansen||21||56|
|R. J. Carr||14||14|
|R. S. Gentle||25||4|
All the enthusiasm and the goodwill we carried back to India received a shock from the manner in which our country ignored our return. My team contained a large number of fresh talent, and it was lamentable that India had no word of cheer for them. The entire blame should rest with the IHF, who did not think it worthwhile even to hold an official reception in honour of the players. My boys were very sad about their unhonoured homecoming. Few people realise how much such things affect the morale of youngsters.
Indian Team on the East African Tour (Photo Courtesy Pat Jansen)