India does not recognize any game as its national sport. Yet, the 29th of August, Major Dhyan Chand’s birth anniversary, is celebrated as National Sports Day or Rashtriya Khel Diwas in the country.
The hockey legend is widely regarded as the greatest hockey player of all time, and with good reason. As we celebrate his 111th birth anniversary, here are 10 facts about India’s greatest ever sportsperson you might not be aware of.
Dhyan Singh, not Dhyan Chand
Dhyan Chand’s original name was Dhyan Singh. He used to practice a lot during the night, waiting for the moon to come out so that he had visibility in the field. He was therefore called “Chand”, by his fellow players, since his practice sessions invariably coincided with the rising moon.
At the age of 16, Dhyan Chand joined the Indian Army. In 1956, at the age of 51, he retired from with the rank of Major. The Government of India honoured him the same year by conferring the Padma Bhushan – India’s third highest civilian honour.
If Dhyan Chand doesn’t score, it’s the goal post’s fault
Once while playing a hockey game, Dhyan Chand was repeatedly unable to score a goal. Frustrated, he argued with the match referee regarding the measurement of the goal post.
Amazingly, it was found to not be in conformation with the official width of a goal post under international rules!
Saying ‘No’ to Hitler
Now this one you might already know. At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Dhyan Chand’s magical stickwork drew crowds from other venues to the hockey field.
Legend has it that Adolf Hitler was so impressed with Dhyan Chand’s wizardry with the hockey stick that he offered him German citizenship. As an incentive, Hitler even promised him the rank of Colonel in the German Army. The Wizard declined, but with a smile.
Teaching The Germans A Lesson
In a match with Germany at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Dhyan Chand lost a tooth in a collision with the particularly aggressive German goalkeeper, Tito Warnholtz. Returning to the field after receiving medical attention, Dhyan Chand reportedly told his players to teach them a lesson by not scoring.
The Indians repeatedly took the ball to the German circle, only to backpedal!
Hockey Ka Jaadugar
“Magician of the game of Hockey”, Dhyan Chand used to practice ball control by running along the lenght of a railway track while balancing the ball on the track rail!
Magnet In His Stick?
Such was Dhyan Chand’s ball control that authorities in Netherlands once broke his stick to inspect whether there was a magnet inside of it. The only thing they found was, well, nothing.
When the ‘The Wizard’ Met ‘The Don’
Cricket’s greatest, Don Bradman and Hockey’s greatest, Dhyan Chand once came face to face at Adelaide in 1935, when the Indian hockey team was in Australia.
Watching Dhyan Chand in action, Bradman remarked “He scores goals like runs in cricket!“
A Major Dhyan Chand Tube Station
Yes, you read that right. In the run-up to the 2012 Olympic Games in London, a tube station was named after Dhyan Chand, along with 358 other past and present Olympic heroesof the world.
A Long, Sparkling Career
In a career spanning from 1926-1948, Dhyan Chand scored over 1000 goals and led India to three Olympic gold medal wins in 1928, 1932 and 1936.
He scored a total of 33 goals in 12 matches at the Olympics.