Major Dhyan 'Chand' Singh legendary center-forward, he is remembered for his goal-scoring feats, first as a player and later as captain. Chand won 3 Olympic gold medals (1928 Amsterdam, 1932 Los Angeles, 1936 Berlin) and was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civilian honour, in 1956.He was the elder brother of fellow player Roop Singh.
He was born on the 29th of August 1905 at Prayag (Allahabad), Uttar Pradesh to a Bais Rajput family. His father served the Indian Army as a Subedar, and played the game of Hockey. Initially known as Dhyan Singh, he had 2 brothers named Mool Singh and Roop Singh, the latter one too being an accomplished Hockey player. Dhyan could not resume his studies after 6th standard as his family used to move from one place to another, before finally settling down permanently at Jhansi.
The last days of Dhyan Chand were not very happy, as he was short of money and was badly ignored by the nation. He developed liver cancer, and was sent to a general ward at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. He died on the 3rd of December 1979.
Dhyan Chand captained the Indian team in 1936 Summer Olympics final. His team had gone down to the Germans in a friendly match, shortly before the Olympics. But this time, India's forward line was reinforced by the inclusion of Ali Iqtidar Shah Dara, who managed to reach Berlin just in time for the final.
In a patriotic note, they raised the Indian tricolour in the dressing room and sang Vande Mataram an Indian nationalist song, rather than the British national anthem, which they were obliged to sing.
Indians were leading 1-0 at the half time. In second half, they scored 7 goals. After trailing 0-6, the Germans are reported to have resorted to body play. In a clash with the German goalkeeper, Dhyan Chand broke one of his teeth. But the valiant Rajput returned to the field after first aid. When the match ended, his contribution in India's 8-1 win was 6 goals.
The match was attended by Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler who left midway as he couldn't bear to see his "racially superior" team being demolished. Sensing something amiss, he was ordered to change his stick, but the flow of goals continued. India won the match 8-1, with Dhyan Chand scoring 6 goals. A reporter said about Dhyan Chand's performance - "With a flick of the wrist, a quick glance of his eyes, a sharp turn and then another turn, and Dhyan Chand was through".
Adolf Hitler left his special box in a huff, after Germany's rout. Next day, he invited him for a meeting the following day. Hitler asked Dhyan Chand what post did he hold in India. On learning that the hockey wizard was a mere Naik in the Indian army, Hitler offered to make Dhyan Chand a Field marshal should he decide to live in Germany. Dhyan Chand politely refused, saying that he had a large family to look after, in India
Dhyan Chand won a number of awards and accolades during his illustrious career. One of the most touching gestures came from the residents of Vienna, who built a statue of the Indian with four hands and four sticks, signifying his unparallel control over the ball. During a 1935 tour of New Zealand and Australia, he scored 201 goals out of the team's tally of 584 in 43 matches. Don Bradman and Dhyan Chand once came face to face at Adelaide in 1935, when the Indian hockey team was in Australia. After watching Dhyan Chand in action, Don Bradman remarked "He scores goals like runs in Cricket" and it is a measure of this man's innocence that he writes, "The picture of that meeting I will cherish all my life."
They say you can judge a man's legend by the quality of myths that surround him. By that measure itself, Dhyan Chand was an extraordinary man. To hear tales of his craftsmanship was to wonder whether his stick was designed by Merlin himself. They broke his stick in Holland to check if there was a magnet inside; in Japan they decided it was glue; in Germany, Adolf Hitler even wanted to buy it.
Once, while playing a hockey game, Major Dhyan Chand was not able to score a goal against the opposition team. After several misses, he argued with the match referee regarding the measurement of the goal post, and amazingly, it was found to not be in conformation with the official width of a goal post (as prescribed under international rules).
After India played its first match in the 1936 Olympics, Dhyan Chand's magical stickwork drew crowds from other venues to the hockey field. A German newspaper carried a banner headline: 'The Olympic complex now has a magic show too.' The next day, there were posters all over Berlin: Visit the hockey stadium to watch the Indian magician Dhyan Chand in action.
On one occasion, a lady from the audience asked Dhyan Chand to play with her walking stick instead. He scored goals even with them!
Don Bradman and Dhyan Chand once came face to face at Adelaide in 1935, when the Indian hockey team was in Australia. After watching Dhyan Chand in action, Don Bradman remarked "He scores goals like runs in cricket"
Residents of Vienna, Austria, honoured him by setting up a statue of him with four hands and four sticks, depicting his control and mastery over the ball.