Dhyan Chand - Born August 29, 1905 in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India – Died December 3, 1979 in Delhi, India) was an Indian field Hockey player, who is widely considered as the greatest field Hockey player of All Time.
Chand is most remembered for his extraordinary goal-scoring feats, in addition to earning three Olympic gold medals (1928, 1932, and 1936) in field Hockey, during an era where India was the most dominant team in Hockey.
Chand was the elder brother of another Hockey player Roop Singh. His father Sameshwar Dutt Singh was in the British Indian Army, and he played Hockey in the army. Dhyan Chand had two brothers - Mool Singh, and Roop Singh. Because of Sameshwar Dutt's numerous army transfers, the family had to move to different cities and as such Chand had to terminate his education after only six years of schooling. The family finally settled in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, India. Being in the military, Dhyan's father got a small piece of land for a house.
Young Chand had no serious inclination towards sports, though he loved wrestling. He stated that he did not remember whether he played any Hockey worth mentioning before he joined the Army, though he said that he occasionally indulged in casual games in Jhansi with his friends.
Chand joined the Indian Army at the age of 16, The Hindi word Chand literally means the moon. Since Dhyan Singh used to practice a lot during night after his duty hours, he invariably used to wait for the moon to come out so that the visibility in the field (during his era there were no flood lights) improved. Hence he was called "Chand", by his fellow players, as his practice sessions at night invariably coincided with the coming out from the moon.
Between 1922 and 1926, Chand exclusively played army Hockey tournaments and regimental games. Chand was ultimately selected for the Indian Army team which was to tour New Zealand. The team won 18 matches, drew 2 and lost only 1, receiving praise from all spectators. Following this, in the two Test matches against the New Zealand squad, the team won the first and narrowly lost the second. Returning to India, Chand was immediately promoted to Lance Naik.
After successfully lobbying for reintroducing field Hockey in the Olympics, the newly formed Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) made preparations to send its best possible team for the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. In 1925, an Inter-Provincial Tournament was held to select India's national field Hockey team. Five teams participated in the inaugural nationals - United Provinces (UP), Punjab, Bengal, Rajputana and Central Provinces. Chand got permission from the Army to play for the United Provinces team. In its first game in the tournament. Dhyan Chand as the centre-forward, and Marthins, their inside-right, were particularly happy in their understanding of each other. Dhyan Chand attracted much attention by his clever stickwork. His penetrating runs and judicious passes seemed to assure for him a position in the team that is to take part in the Olympic Games.
In the 1928 Amsterdam Summer Olympics, the Indian team was put in the division A table, with Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Switzerland . On 17 May the Indian national hockey team made its Olympic debut against Austria, winning 6-0, with Chand scoring 3 goals. The next day India defeated Belgium 9-0; however Chand only scored once. On 20 May, Denmark lost to India 5-0, with Chand netting 3. Two days later, he scored 4 goals when India defeated Switzerland 6-0 in the semi-finals.
The final match took place on 26 May, with India facing the home team of the Netherlands. The Indian team's better players Feroze Khan, Ali Shaukat and Kher Singh were on the sick list and Chand himself was ill. However, even with a skeletal side, India managed to defeat the hosts 3-0 (with Singh scoring 2), and the Indian team won its country's first Olympic gold medal. Keeper Richard Allen created a unique record of not conceding a single goal. Chand was the top scorer of the tournament by a large margin, scoring 14 goals in 5 matches.
On returning to India, the team was received by thousands of people at the Bombay harbour, compared to the three people who had seen them off.
Posted in Waziristan in the North-West Frontier Province (now in Pakistan) with his new 2/14 Punjab Regiment, Chand was cut off from the IHF, which was by now controlled by civilians. The Inter-Provincial Tournament was being held to select the new Olympic team; the IHF wrote to the Army Sports Control Board to grant Singh leave to participate in the nationals. His platoon refused. Chand received news that he had been selected by the IHF for the Olympic team without any formalities. The rest of his teammates however, had to prove their skills in the Inter-Provincial Tournament, which was won by Punjab. As such, seven players from Punjab were selected for the Olympic team. Apart from Chand, Broome Eric Pinnigar, Leslie Hammond and Richard Allen were the other 1928 Olympians retained in the team. Chand's brother Roop Singh was also included in the squad as a left-in. Lal Shah Bokhari was selected as captain.
The Olympic team then played practice matches in India before heading for Colombo. In two matches in Ceylon, the Olympic team beat the All Ceylon XI 20-0 and 10-0. Wrote one newspaper on the first match, "Perfection is perilous, for it tempts the gods. For once, this was proved wrong for even the god of weather paid tribute to the genius of the Indian players. Rain clouds, which had threatened to ruin the game, vanished into the blue, and thousands of spectators spent a happy hour marvelling at the incomparable artistry of the Indian team."
The India team set sail for San Francisco on 30 May, and arrived on 6 July. They reached Los Angeles three weeks before the opening ceremony of the Olympics, which took place on 30 July. On 4 August 1932, India played its first match against Japan and won 11-1. Chand, Roop Singh, Gurmit Singh each scored thrice, and Dickie Carr once. In the final on 11 August, India played against hosts USA. India won 24-1, a world record at that time, and once again clinched the gold medal. Chand scored 8 times, Roop Singh 10, Gurmit Singh 5 and Pinniger once. In fact, Chand along with his brother Roop, scored 25 out of the 35 goals scored by India. This led to them being dubbed the 'Hockey Twins'.
After the 1932 Summer Olympics and a tour of the United States, the Indian team set sail from New York, the team arrived at England.The then embarked on a hectic tour, playing nine matches in various countries in a fortnight, commencing on 2 September. They played four internationals-against the Netherlands, Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. The team then reached Ceylon and India, playing a number of matches to pay for their expenses. At the end of the tour, India had played 37 matches, winning 34, drawing 2, with one abandoned. Chand scored 133 of the 338 Indian goals.
In Indian language he is known as Hockey ka jaadugar that means magician of the Hockey game. It is said he used to practice on railway track and what he do is he keeps the ball on one of the track and keep playing it up to 1 to 2 km without letting it to be fallen.
In December 1934, the IHF decided to send a team to New Zealand in the new year. Chand and his brother were immediately selected. When the Nawab of Manavadar declined to play, Chand was appointed captain. In the subsequent tour, the team played a total of 48 matches on this tour, with 28 in New Zealand and the remainder in India, Ceylon and Australia. India won every match, scoring 584 goals and conceding only 40. Of these 48 matches, Chand played 43 and scored a total of 201 goals.
Upon returning to India, Chand resumed his duties in the barracks. In December, 1935 the IHF decided to stage the Inter-Provincial tournament to select the Olympic team. Chand was again denied permission to leave his platoon, though once again he was selected without formalities. The final team assembled in Delhi on 16 June and played against the Delhi Hockey XI. Incredibly, they lost 4-1. After this inauspicious start, the team went on a successful tour of the subcontinent, finally departing for Marseilles on 27 June. They arrived on 10 July, and after an uncomfortable journey in third-class compartments, reached Berlin on 13 July. On 17 July, the Indian team played a practice match against Germany and lost 4-1. As such, manager Pankaj Gupta informed the IHF that Ali Dara had to be sent immediately to replace the out of form Mirza Masood.
On 5 August, India won its first match against Hungary 4-0. 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. India won the rest of the group matches against USA (7-0, with Chand scoring 2 goals) and Japan (9-0, with Chand scoring 4). On 10 August, Ali Dara arrived. Their fourth match was the semi-final against France, whom they defeated 10-0, with Chand scoring 4 goals. Meanwhile, Germany had beaten Denmark 6-0, beaten Afghanistan 4-1 and in the play-offs, had defeated the Netherlands 3-0. Thus, India and Germany were to clash in the 1936 Berlin Olympics field Hockey final on 15 August.
On the morning of the final, the entire team was nervous since they had been defeated the last time they had faced Germany. In the locker room, Pankaj Gupta produced a Congress tricolour. Reverently the team saluted it, prayed and marched onto the field. The German team was successful in restricting the India side to a single goal until the first interval. After the interval, the Indian team launched an all-out attack, easily defeating Germany 8-1, who scored the only goal against India in that Olympic tournament. Chand top-scored with 3 goals, Dara scored 2 and Roop Singh, Tapsell and Jaffar one each. During the match with Germany, Dhyan Chand lost a tooth in a collision with the particularly aggressive Germany goalkeeper Tito Warnholtz. Returning to the field after medical attention, Dhyan Chand reportedly told the players on his team to "teach a lesson" to the Germans by not scoring. The Indians repeatedly took the ball to the German circle only to backpedal.
Overall, in 3 Olympic tournaments, Chand had scored 33 goals in 12 matches.
After returning from Berlin, Chand joined his regiment. Between 1936 and the commencement of the War in 1939, he largely confined himself to army Hockey, with one visit to Kolkata to take part in the Beighton Cup tournament in 1937. After the Beighton Cup, Chand spent four months in a military camp in Pachmarhi to attend military classes. Later, he was promoted to Lieutenant.
Towards the closing phases of the war, Chand led an army Hockey team which toured around the battlefields in Manipur, Burma, the Far East and Ceylon. When the war ended in 1945, Chand decided that the Indian Hockey team needed new young players. In 1947, the IHF was requested by the Asian Sports Association (ASA) of East Africa to send a team to play a series of matches. The ASA made a condition that Chand should be included in the team. Once again, Chand was chosen as captain.
The team assembled in Bombay on 23 November 1947, and reached Mombasa on 15 December and played 9 matches in British East Africa winning all. Chand, though now in his forties, still managed to score 61 goals in 22 matches.
After returning from the East African tour in early 1948, Chand decided to gradually phase out his involvement in 'serious Hockey'. He played exhibition matches, leading a Rest of India side against state teams and the 1948 Olympic team which defeated Chand's side 2-1, even though an aging Chand scored his side's lone goal. Chand's last match was leading the Rest of India team against the Bengal side. The match ended in a draw after which the Bengal Hockey Association organized a public function to honor Chand's services to Indian Hockey.
In 1951, Captain Dhyan Chand was honored at the National Stadium.
In 1956, at the age of 51, he retired from the army with the rank of Major. The Government of India honored him the same year by conferring him the Padma Bhushan (India's third highest civilian honour).
After retirement, he taught at coaching camps at Mount Abu, Rajasthan. Later, he accepted the position of Chief Hockey Coach at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala, a post he held for several years.
Dhyan Chand remains a legendary figure in Indian and world Hockey. His astounding skills have been glorified in various apocryphal stories and anecdotes. A number of such these revolve around the fact that Singh had a magical control over dribbling the ball. 29 August, Chand's birthday, is celebrated as National Sports Day in India.
India's highest award for lifetime achievement in sports is the Dhyan Chand Award which has been awarded annually from 2002 to sporting figures who not only contribute through their performance but also contribute to the sport after their retirement. The National Stadium, Delhi was renamed Dhyan Chand National Stadium in 2002 in his honour.
Chand scored over 1000 goals in his career, from 1926 to 1948.