Fear or awe reflected in a rival’s eyes towards a sportsperson is a mark of respect for every top-flight achiever. Dhyan Chand simply floored the Germans with his full package of hockey skills at the Berlin Olympics 80 years ago. Three goals from him in the 1936 Games men’s hockey final on August 15, the top-scorer in a 8-1 rout of Germany in front of home fans and the Fuhrer Adolf Hitler himself put the sinewy Indian into the spotlight.
It is said that Hitler, after walking away from the hockey arena in a huff to avoid witnessing further humiliation heaped on Germany, instead of glory for the Reich, expressed a wish to meet the Indian captain. Dhyan Chand was offered a high rank in the German armed forces as incentive for accepting citizenship. The offer was refused by the player, explaining that he was proud to be an Indian.
When the Olympic champion returned to India by ship, Dhyan Chand was felicitated in a manner fitting his achievements as goal-scorer and inspiration to millions in an incredible hockey career. He retired as a Major in the Indian army, the National Stadium in the capital was named after him in 2002, his birthday (August 29) is celebrated as the National Sports Day.
It is difficult to capture the essence of Dhyan Chand’s feats in words. Nor can the magic of his game or beauty of spectacular goals scored be explained in prose. Tales passed down from generation to generation is the only way to know a little about this proud Indian with feats spread over a lifetime.