Hockey Legend : Dhyan Chand

Dhyan Chand

Dhyan Chand

Olympic medal record

Men's field hockey


1928 Amsterdam

Team competition


1932 Los Angeles

Team competition


1936 Berlin

Team competition

Major Dhyan 'Chand' Singh ( Hindi : ????? ' ??? ' ???? ; August 29 , 1905 December 3 , 1979 ), better known as Dhyan Chand ( Hindi : ????? ??? ) was an Indian hockey player, widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time 1 2 . A legendary center-forward , he is remembered for his goal-scoring feats and successful matches, both 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 3 . He was the elder brother of equally famous fellow player Roop Singh .

He got the title ' ??? ' or Chand (literally Moon ) from his first coach, Pankaj Gupta, who had predicted that he would one day shine like one 4 . Even today, Chand remains a figure of veneration, and a number of legends about him are famous in the realm of Indian sport .



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Dhyan Chand Singh was born on August 29 , 1905 to a Bais Rajput , family in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh . His father Sameshwar Dutt Singh was an Indian Army subedar who had played hockey in the army. Chand had two brothers - Mool Singh, later a hawaldar in the army, and Roop Singh ( September 8 , 1910 December 16 , 1977 ). Because of his father's numerous army transfers, the family kept moving to different cities and as such Singh could not study. He thus had to terminate his education after class six. The family finally settled in Jhansi . Being in the military, Singh's father got a small piece of land for a house.

Young Dhyan had no serious inclination towards sports, though he loved wrestling citation needed . 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, in 1922 as a Sepoy of the Brahmin Regiment in Delhi . Subedar-Major Bale Tiwari noticed his dribbling skills. A keen enthusiast of the game, Tiwari recognised the Chand's talent. He became his mentor and laid the foundations of his game. Tiwari made one thing clear to Chand - although he had amazing dribbling skills, hockey was a team game and he could not hang on to the ball for too long. Chand played hockey alone for hours at a stretch, and mostly stayed aloof from his fellow soldiers. During this time, he also played for the local Jhansi Heroes club.


Early career

Between 1922 and 1926, Chand exclusively played the army hockey tournaments and the 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 praises 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 field 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 on February 14, 1928 , UP tied with Punjab 3-3. This was Chand's first civilian match. In the subsequent replay matches, UP won by the odd goal in three and qualified for the final. UP ultimately won the final against Rajputana, in which Chand scored a goal. According to The Statesman , Kolkata,

The United Provinces were the most impressive side of the five teams which have taken part in the tournament, and they fully deserved their success. UP won the final virtually in the first seven minutes when they scored two goals. The UP forward line moved with precision and smoothness in all the matches, and that played a very big part in their success 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. Quite early in the game, it became evident that Dhyan Chand was again at his best. In combination with Marthins he took the ball away to the right and Marthins did well to give him a good pass. Quick as lightning, Dhyan Chand shot a goal. The ball struck one of the defenders' stick and went into the net, giving goalkeeper Collie no chance. A goal within 3 minutes of the start was more than what the most optimistic of the UP supporters could expect. At the interval, UP led by three goals to nil. On their part, Rajputana put every ounce of their efforts to score. The UP goal had more than one narrow escape, but they were deserving winners of a fine exhibition match. UP 3 - Rajputana 1.

Buoyed by the success of the Tournament, it was decided that it would be held every two years. After two more trial matches between various hopefuls, the Olympic team (including Chands as center-forward) was announced and assembled in Bombay . Center-half Broome Eric Pinniger was selected as the captain. The IHF was initially low on funds since the provinces of Bombay , Madras and Burma had turned a deaf ear to their financial appeal, but they managed to scrape enough money. The Olympic team then played a match against the Bombay XI, and amazingly lost 3-2, even though Singh scored both his team's goals. With a quiet send-off, the team left for England on March 10, to play 11 matches against local sides as well in the Folkestone Festival, winning all. Finally, on April 24, the team arrived in Amsterdam to embark on a tour of the Low Countries . In all the pre-Olympic matches against local Dutch, German and Belgian teams, the Indian team won by large margins.

1928 Amsterdam Summer Olympics

The Indian team in action in the 1928 Olympics

The victorious India team after their Olympic debut against Austria

In the 1928 Amsterdam Summer Olympics, the Indian team was put in the division A table, with Austria , Belgium , Denmark and Switzerland . On May 17 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 May 20, 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 May 26, 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 as well as its continent its 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. A newspaper report about India 's triumph said,

This is not a game of hockey, but magic. Dhyan Chand is in fact the magician of hockey.

On returning to India , the team was received by thousands of people at the Bombay harbour, compared to the 3 people who had seen them off.

1932 Los Angeles Summer Olympics and tours

The India hockey team aboard the NYK Haruna Maru, en route to Los Angeles

India created a world record by defeating USA 24-1 in the finals of the 1932 Olympics

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 May 30, and arrived on June 6. They reached Los Angeles three weeks before the opening ceremony of the Olympics , which took place on July 30. On August 4, 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 August 11, 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'.

One Los Angeles newspaper wrote, "The All-India field hockey team which G. D. Sondhi brought to Los Angeles to defend their 1928 Olympic title, was like a typhoon out of the east. They trampled under their feet and all but shoved out of the Olympic stadium the eleven players representing the United States ."

The team then embarked on a tour of the United States . They played a match on August 20 against a United States XI, almost the same team that they had faced in Los Angeles . Even after loaning its second keeper Arthur Hind, for a half, the team won 20-1.

After setting 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 September 2. They played four internationals-against Holland , 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.

Captaincy and 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics

1936 Berlin Olympics Indian hockey captain Dhyan Chand

Dhyan Chand in action against France in the 1936 Olympics hockey semi-finals

In 1933, Chand's home team, the Jhansi Heroes participated in and won the Beighton Cup , which he considered the most prestigious of Indian hockey tournaments. Later, he would state,

If anybody asked me which was the best match that I played in, 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.

In Kolkata, the Heroes also won the Lakshmibilas Cup tournament, which was open only to Indian teams. In 1935, they successfully defended their Beighton Cup title, though lost the subsequent year.

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 June 16 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 June 27. They arrived on July 10, and after an uncomfortable journey in third-class compartments, reached Berlin on July 13. On July 17, 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 August 5, India won its first match against Hungary 4-0. 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 August 10, 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 Holland 3-0. Thus, India and Germany were to clash in the 1936 Berlin Olympics field hockey final on August 15.

Dhyan Chand scoring a goal against Germany in the 1936 Olympics hockey final

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, incidentally the only goal scored against India in that Olympic tournament. Chand top-scored with 3 goals, Dara scored 2 and Roop Singh, Tapsell and Jaffar one each. Describing the game, the Special Correspondent of The Hindu wrote,

Every member of the team was feeling the strain of the defeat to the Germans in the practice match, and no one was in his usual self. I never saw a hockey team from India , where the game is definitely of a superior standard compared to the rest of the world, being so obsessed on the eve of the match. The players were nervous as to what the result of the match would be, which was heightened by the feeling that the burden of the country's honour was on their shoulders. The game was played at a fast pace and was packed with thrilling incidents. The Germans undercut and lifted the ball, but the Indian team countered with brilliant half-volleying and amazing long shots. Twice Dara attempted to score but was declared offside. Dhyan Chand discarded his spiked shoes and stockings and played with bare legs and rubber soles and became speedier in the second half. The vigorous German attacks were brilliantly saved by Allen and Tapsell. The goal scored by Weiss of Germany was the only goal scored against the Indians throughout the tournament. The whole Indian team put up a splendid display. Dhyan Chand and Dara impressed by their combination, Tapsell by his reliability and Jaffar by his tremendous bursts of speed.

The final was included in the Leni Riefenstahl film on the 1936 Olympics, Olympia . Overall, in 3 Olympic tournaments, Chand had scored 33 goals in 12 matches.

East African Tour and Final Tournaments

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 a 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 must seek new blood and not continue with the old brigade anymore. 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. Unusually, 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 November 23, 1947 , and played one match against a Bombay team. They were defeated 2-1. Remembering that Bombay had defeated even an Olympic team, they were not too unhappy and set sail for East Africa on December 6. The team reached Mombasa on December 15 and played 28 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.

Post retirement

After his retirement, Dhyan Chand earned a diploma in coaching from the National Institute of Sports in Patiala , in Punjab . However he found it difficult to coach something that was innate to him.

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. One of his famous statues is at the National Stadium near India Gate , New Delhi while another was erected in 2005 at Medak in Andhra Pradesh .

In 1956, at the age of 51, he retired from the army with the rank of Major . The Government of India honoured him that year by conferring him the Padma Bhushan ( India 's third highest civilian honour).

Last Days

Chand retired from the Army as a Major in 1956. He then 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. Chand spent his last days in his hometown of Jhansi .

Chand was a vehement critic of the state Indian hockey had fallen into. He railed against the lackluster IHF, noting that it was bereft of the teamwork and close relationship with the players that had so defined it in his time.


Chand however died penniless and uncared for in a hospital, receiving a meagre pension. Dhyan Chand was very sad to see India finish seventh at the Montreal Olympics , 1976. The Indian team included his son, Ashok Kumar Singh. His grand daughter Neha Singh played for India in the 1998 World Cup. 5

When he was on his deathbed at All India Institute of Medical Sciences , he reportedly told a doctor that Indian hockey was dying. citation needed He then went into a coma and died in 1979.

A year after his death, the Indian Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in his honour. In addition, Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi is named in his honor.

Honours & Awards

August 29 is celebrated as National Sports Day when the national sporting awards are handed out by the President of India at Rashtrapathi Bhavan. Dhyan Chand's imposing statue at the entrance of the National Stadium (main venue of the inaugural Asian Games in 1951) is a reminder of the all-time legend of hockey who brought so much glory to both the game and the nation.

The Government of India honoured him that year by conferring him the Padma Bhushan ( India 's third highest civilian honour). However the Arjuna award for sports excellence was never awarded to him.

The Government of India released a postage stamp in his honour on December 3, 1980 , exactly a year after he died in hospital.

Dhyan Chand won 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.

One of his statues is near the India Gate, New Delhi while another has been erected in 2005 at Medak in Andhra Pradesh.

In 2002, the union sports ministry of India introduced a Lifetime Achievement Award in sports in the name of Dhyan Chand.

National sports day

Dhyan Chand's statue in his hometown of Jhansi

29 August , his birthday is celebrated as the National Sports Day in India . The President gives away sport-related awards such as the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna , Arjuna Award and Dronacharya Award on this day at the Rashtrapati Bhavan .

To commemorate his memory, the Government of India has instituted Dhyan Chand Award which is presented each year to those sportspersons who not only contribute through their performance but also contribute to the sport after their retirement.


There are many apocryphal stories about Singh which are impossible to verify.

A famous incident occurred when Singh was 14. He went with his father to an army hockey match. One of the teams was down by two goals. Singh repeatedly told his father that if given a chance, he could make the losing team win. Finally an army officer allowed him to play. He went and scored 4 goals citation needed . The impressed officer inducted him into the Children's Platoon.

A number of urban legends revolve around the fact that Singh had such control over dribbling the ball. Many say that German Olympic officials broke his hockey stick to search for a magnet inside, and tried to console themselves saying he had added some sort of glue.

Another story goes that a lady from the audience asked Singh to play with her walking stick instead. Once during a tour of Lyon in 1963, a female fan planted a kiss on Dhyan Chand despite him trying his best to avoid that. 6

Dhyan Chand's Hobbies

In those days, shikar, or hunting was not yet banned by the government. Dhyan Chand owned a licensed army gun which he would use for hunting. He also loved to fish, and like every fishing enthusiast, he would spend hours fishing.

Cooking was his other favourite hobby. He had labels stuck on different daals, or pulses, so that he could easily locate them. For him, cooking was a source of joy, especially when he prepared and served food to close friends. Dhyan Chand was a non-vegetarian. He enjoyed making mutton and fish dishes. He liked making halwa dripping with ghee. He had a habit of drinking milk while standing up. He believed that in this manner, the milk went straight into the body system.

His indoor pastime was billiards. He had an orthodox style of playing billiards, and he would handle the cue in a very odd way. However, once he started scoring, like in hockey, he never stopped. After retirement in Jhansi , he used to play billiards till late in the night.

Dhyan Chand also played cricket well, and was good at batting due to his strong wrists. He enjoyed hitting sixes and fours. Many times at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala , he used to play cricket with small children. Later in life, he used to play carroms with his sons.

Dhyan Chand loved photography. He did not have the money to buy an expensive camera, so he carried a very old camera and took pictures with it whenever he could.

Dhyan Chand admitted that he was not a good social mixer. While at home or during play, he kept to himself. He thought that it would be better if he kept quiet and just did his duty or job.




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