Dhyan ‘Chand’ Singh, popularly known as Dhyan Chand, was an Indian hockey player, who brought laurels to India with his meticulous skills in the field of Hockey, our national game. Before entering the field of Hockey, he was in the Indian army from the age of 16, since the year 1921. He then used to play hockey tournaments organized by the Indian army and played for the next five years until 1926.
After his duty hours, he used to practice a lot for the tournaments at night. Keeping in mind his great performances in the ongoing tournaments, he was selected for the Indian army tour of New Zealand, after which he was promoted to a higher post of Lance Naik in the Indian army before 1947. In the New Zealand tournament, they won an overall of 18 games and lost only once, with a draw of two.
He not only shocked the whole world with his excellent playing skills, but he was the one who forced Adolf Hitler to leave the stadium during the 1936 Olympics final against Germany, in which India defeated Germany with a score of 8-1, Dhyan Chand alone bagging six of those goals. This is not all. Let’s explore event wise, what made Adolf Hitler meet Major Dhyan Chand leading to an epic conversation.
The Olympics in 1928 was held in Amsterdam, and India was alongside Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, and Belgium. India made its Olympics debut against Austria on 17th May 1928 and won the game with a score of 6-0. It was during this tournament that Dhyan Chand came out to be rising star in front of the world when he scored 14 goals in a total of 5 matches. India was soon about to witness an unmatched talent in hockey who was afterward named as ‘Wizard’ of Hockey.
Before heading on for the 1932 Olympics which took place in Los Angeles, India played as well as won many practice matches with huge margins, 20-0 and 10-0, both with Ceylon XI in Ceylon. Even the newspapers praised India for its brilliant performance. The headlines read as, “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 marveling at the incomparable artistry of the Indian team.”
Many great players were selected for the Olympics, including Dhyan Chand who was selected with an ease but other players had to showcase their skills in order to be a part of the game. Selected players also included Dhyan Chand’s brother Roop Singh as a left-in.
In the final of 1932 Olympics, India broke the world record after winning against the hosts the USA with a brilliant score of 24-1. In that match alone, Dhyan Chand scored 10 goals and his brother Roop Singh scored 8 goals, giving a total of 25 goals in the entire tournament. From that day onwards, they were known as ‘Hockey twins’.
Berlin Olympics 1936 – The year of the ‘Epic Conversation’
Major Dhyan Chand captained the Berlin Olympics of 1936 after he became the captain of the Indian Hockey team in the year 1934. For the selection of the 1936 Olympics, Indian Hockey Federation organized a tournament and made a team of the prominent players. Upon the final selection of the team, India played its first match in the 1936 Olympics against Germany. The Indian team which had a great team consisting Ali Dara, Ahmad Khan and Dhyan Chand, unfortunately, lost the match by 4-1. The impact of this defeat was huge so much so that he even mentioned, ”As long as I live, I shall never forget this match, or get over the shock of this defeat, which still rankles me.”
But never the less this defeat gave the Indian team an immense motivation to play extremely well in the consequent matches so setting the ground on fire, they defeated Hungary, USA, and Japan. Meanwhile, when India reached semi-finals, Germany also took entry in the semi-finals defeating Denmark, Afghanistan, and Holland.
The final verdict: India versus Germany.
India due to its tremendous performance in previous matches was already settled in many hearts and so, people from all over Europe came to see the finals. There were even posters showcasing Dhyan Chand’s exponential performance and asking to witness his performance in the match. He was already a star all over the world. Dhyan Chand and his team were fully prepared amidst the fact that they already lost a game to Germany in a practice match. But team India won the match with flying colours defeating Germany with 8-1.
It is believed that Hitler left the stadium midway as he couldn’t see Germany losing. However, after knowing about the excellent performance of Dhyan Chand, Hitler demanded a meeting with him which was conveyed to Dhyan Chand.
It’s now time for that Epic Conversation
Hitler: (looking at the sub-standard canvas shoes of Dhyan Chand), “what else you do, when not playing hockey?”
Dhyan Chand: I am in Army.
Hitler: What is your rank?
Dhyan Chand: I am Lance Nayak.
Hitler: Come over to Germany and I will make you a Field Marshal.
Dhyan Chand was shocked by what just happened in that moment and was confused whether this was a proposal or an instruction by Hitler.
Dhyan Chand after few seconds replied in simple Hindi, “India is my Country, and I am fine there”.
None of the generals accompanying Hitler could respond to what the major said.
Hitler is said to have taken his eyes off Dhyan Chand’s canvas shoes briefly and retorted, “As you like it” and stomped away in a huff.
With so much ease and politeness, he ended the conversation declining the German dictator’s offer. We respect Sir Dhyan Chand’s dedication towards his country despite that he was big time ignored by our nation and no Bharat Ratna was awarded to this legend. It truly shows that he played for his country, for his people and not for money.
Rare Footage From 1936 Olympics