Monday, April 9, 2012

Three great former Indian hockey stars honoured in London

To commemorate the 2012 London Olympics, 361 tube stations in London were recently named after Olympic stars of the past. Three Indian hockey greats figure in that – Dyan Chand, Roop Singh and Leslie Claudius. They are the only Indians to make the grade.

Dyan Chand (1905-1979) is considered to be the greatest hockey player of all times. This superb Centre Forward played for India in Amsterdam (1928) Los Angeles (1932) and, as Captain, in Berlin (1936) Olympics. India won gold medals at all the three Games. The President of India awarded him Padma Bhushan in 1956.

I had the honour of meeting him in 1957 at the Bombay Hockey Nationals. He was the Chief Guest at the match in which I played for Kerala against the mighty Punjab. After the match which we lost 0-3, Dayan Chand praised my goalkeeping effort and said that it was one of the best he had seen. Great compliment.

Roop Singh (1910-1977) was Dyan Chand’s brother. He played in the 1932 and 1936 Olympics for India as Left-in forward. The Los Angeles Olympic Hockey Final against the USA was, it could be said, a family affair. Dyan Chand scored eight goals and Roop Singh ten goals in that match which India won 24-1.

Leslie Claudius (b. 1927) was one of India’s all time greats. If I remember correctly, his position was Left Half. I have, with great admiration, watched him play. This man from Calcutta represented India in four consecutive Olympics – London (1948), Helsinki (1952), Melbourne 1956) and Rome (1960). He won gold medals in the first three of these and, as Captain, a silver medal at Rome. That is a record.

Claudius was awarded the Padma Shri by the President in 1971. His son Robert also represented India in hockey at the at the 1978 World Cup in Mexico. Tragically, Robert died in a road accident.

Given below are photographs (from Wikimedia Commons) of the first three Indian Hockey teams to the Olympics:

 1928 Team

1932 Team on board  N. Y. K. Haruna Maru

 1936 Team.

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