Dhyan Chand predicted he would be forgotten before passing away
There has been a renewed demand for the country’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna to be conferred upon hockey legend Dhyan Chand this year. Back in 2011, when the ruling party in the government, Congress extended the scope of the award from arts, science, literature and public service to people who had demonstrated outstanding achievements in "any field of human endeavour", it seemed pretty obvious that hockey’s luminary Dhyan Chand would be the most deserving recipient.
What is shocking however, is the fact that the hockey legend has predicted that he would be neglected, two months prior to his death and it stood true, “When I die, the world will cry, but India’s people will not shed a tear for me, I know them,” he had said.
As per reports in the media following a Right To Information inquiry, proceedings took a turn in the opposite direction. Rahul Gandhi, the young scion of Congress had last minute changes effected, mobilised the required paperwork to be completed and Sachin Tendulkar’s name, who was playing his farewell cricket match was recommended.
Subsequently, the cricketer was awarded with the prestigious honour while hockey fans rued in bitter disappointment over the fact that Dhyan Chand, the first choice was snubbed ahead of Sachin Tendulkar.
However, earlier this year in addition to the Home Ministry’s recommendation; former hockey players in the likes of Ajit Pal Singh, Zafar Iqbal, Dilip Tirkey and Dhyan Chand's son Ashok Kumar gathered at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi in order to press their demand for the Bharat Ratna to be bestowed upon the legend.
Dhyan Chand is perhaps the greatest exponent of the sport of hockey in the country having guided India to three Olympic gold medals at Amsterdam in 1928 , Los Angeles in 1932 and Berlin in 1936.
For a person who started playing hockey at the age of 14, the biggest moment of his career came forth at the Berlin Olympics in 1936 when he had a fan in the likes of Adolf Hitler cheering Germany and watching him from the sidelines. In the final match of the Olympics, India was just leading by one goal at half-time when Dhyan Chand, who was unable to run across the field properly, decided to play the second half barefoot. Subsequently, he netted three goals and led India to a 8-1 win and a hat-trick of gold medals at the Olympics.
Hitler who was in complete awe of his performance, offered Dhyan Chand a German citizenship and a promotion to the rank of Colonel. But, the hockey legend politely declined the offer saying that India would be his home till the day he died.
The hockey wizard retired from hockey in 1948 after playing for almost 25 years. In 1956, at the age of 51 years, he retired from the Indian Army with the rank of major and was awarded the third-highest civilian honour, the Padma Bhushan, the same year.
He then served as the chief coach at National Institute of Sports in Patiala from 1962 to 1978 and was appointed as India’s selector and coach of the national team on numerous occasions. The All India Major Dhyan Chand Hockey Tournament and the national stadium in Delhi were named after him.
But a major downslide struck him in 1979, when he was diagnosed with liver cancer and went to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Surviving on a mere pension of 200 rupees did not suffice and moreover since no one recognised him, he was placed in the general ward of the hospital and died 12 days later.Published 04 Dec 2016, 22:29 IST