As Thomas Huxley famously said, “I believe that history might be, and ought to be, taught in a new fashion so as to make the meaning of it as a process of evolution intelligible to the young.” My thoughts resonate with this quote.
If there is one peculiar thing that brought the vastly established and diversified human beings onto one single stage, uniting them and their thoughts, it is sports. More specially in a nation with rich traditions and customs, and its own internal nemesis, India, sports have united them all together and on its every bond, developed respect towards the nation and its development, particularly for its national game – hockey. Hockey in the nation has been witnessed a lot of it all. From the gold medals to the wooden spoon, from heroes to zeroes, from optimists to pessimists, and what not. Examples of such age old foremost traditions of the game are the Beighton Cup and the Agha Khan Cup.
One of the oldest hockey tournaments, the Beighton Cup is stationed in Kolkota’s Mohan Bagan ground. Beighton Cup was presented by T.D. Beighton, Legal Remembrances of the Government of Bengal, and was run initially by the Indian Football Association. However, the Calcutta Hockey League took off in 1905.
In his autobiography Goal!, the legendary Dhyan Chand remembers his Beighton Cup debut. He says, “In my opinion, it is perhaps the best organized hockey event in the country. Kolkata is indeed lucky that it has at least three or four first class hockey grounds and this is a great advantage to run a tournament on schedule. He further says, “If anybody asked me which the best match that I played in was, I will unhesitatingly say that it was the 1933 Beighton Cup final between Calcutta Customs and Jhansi Heroes. Calcutta Customs was a great side those days; they had Shaukat Ali, Asad Ali, Claude Deefholts, Seaman, Mohsin, and many others who were then in the first flight of Indian hockey. I had a very young side. Besides my brother Roop Singh, and Ismail, who played for the Great Indian Peninsular Railway in Mumbai, I had no other really great player in the team. But I had a team which was determined to do or die. It was a great match, full of thrills, and it was just opportunism that gave us the victory. Customs were pressing hard and our goal was at their mercy. Suddenly I broke through and from midfield gave a long through pass to Ismail, who ran with Jesse Owens speed half the length of the ground. A misunderstanding occurred between the Customs left-half and the goalkeeper, and Ismail, taking every advantage of it, cut through and netted the only goal of the match. We felt very proud of our triumph.”
The Beighton Cup had many a big names. Leslie Claudius, Trevor Vanderputt, Carl Tapsell, Dicky Carr, Joe Gallibardy, Pat Jansen, Keshav Dutt, Ric Charlesworth, Ashok Kumar etc. – successful Olympians themselves – are some of the few to be mentioned.
Believe you me, the Calcutta Rangers Club, an Anglo Indian club at that time, with top funds ensured the Indian Hockey Team sailed over the seas to Los Angeles and Berlin for the Gold medals. Generous on the latter’s decision, history and glory to the former’s nation.
Another such Hockey tradition is the Aga Khan Cup Hockey tournament, named after Sir Sultan Muhammed Shah, Aga Khan III, initially stationed at Bombay (now Mumbai), with teams all over the nation playing their part. His goal was the advancement of Muslim agendas and protection of Muslim rights in India. The only issue with this tournament is that the dates used to clash with the Beighton Cup tournament, and players chose to travel to Calcutta rather than Bombay, as winning the Beighton Cup meant more. Currently, one can see the Aga Khan Cup tournament being held every year in July, with its new base in Pune, Maharastra.
As Boris Becker famously said, “I go to my favorite tournament, I talk about my favorite sport and it’s just a great month of parading.” Tournaments are surely treasured events in one’s lives.
Tournaments are nothing but sports holidays. India, since then, has awakened well to the reality. From the nationals and the junior nationals, Indian Hockey has come a long way. Often at times, there rose a sudden problem with the finances of the game. The game and its representatives needed certain funds for their daily survival. It would be foolish to compare hockey with other games. When the game’s finest players had played their part, a few of them who have breathed their last, the birth of the Premier League, the World Series Hockey and the Hockey India League took place, obviously involving the game’s much needed finances.
Well, not much to say about the latest. Just as we respect our parents, our idols, our history, so should we respect our age old great traditions. And we introduce them to the generations to come. Otherwise, there is no meaning to life.
Long live traditions, long live Indian Hockey.