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1928 Amsterdam Olympics: The hockey champions of the world

With our victory over Switzerland, we qualified for the final, which took place on May 26. We faced Holland on that day. You will remember that in a practice match we beat the Dutch Olympic XI at the Hague on May 5 by eight goals to one. That helped us a great deal in sizing up the strength of our opponents on the day of the final. On this day, we beat Holland by three clear goals.

At this distant date, I still remember vividly the tragic circumstances in which India took the field on May 26 to win the highest laurels in world’s hockey. It was a sadly depleted team that opposed Holland. Feroze Khan, Shaukat Ali and Kher Singh were on the sick list and Jaipal Singh was not available. I have already narrated in an earlier chapter how Jaipal Singh’s disappearance in the most crucial game still remains a mystery. I myself was ill, running a high temperature which stayed all through the game. For me, there was no option. That day our manager coined a slogan for us: “Do or die.” I decided I would die playing. I was a soldier by profession and when the country’s honour was at stake, there was no alternative but to march boldly into the battle field.

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In the home of Olympic hero Dhyan Chand

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Thus, on May 26, 1928, India was acknowledged throughout the world as the hockey champions. On May 28, we lined up at the Olympic Stadium to receive our Olympic medals and believe me that day our happiness knew no bounds.

Unlike the present series of Olympic Games, the 1928 hockey was played in May, although the actual Olympic ceremony and other events took place according to schedule towards the end of July. As a result, we had not the good fortune to enjoy the Olympic atmosphere, the solemn rituals of the opening ceremony, the subsequent thrills and excitement. So even here my readers will have to be content with what appeared in the press at that time.

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How India won its first Olympic hockey gold

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According to our manager Rosser, who submitted a report at the end of the tour: “The exhibition of hockey given by the Indian team impressed and fascinated the countries of Europe. Apart from their wonderful eye, nimbleness, unselfish play, quick movements and team work, their display of scientific hockey showed what was possible in the great amateur game in correct unison and sympathetic touch.

“The main features that impressed the English and the Continental players were:

1. Positional play;

2. The combination of the forwards with the half-backs and the latter with the full-backs;

3. The tackle back;

4. Quick movements and first-time passes;

5. Deft stickwork, both in attack and in defence;

6. Quickness, dash and anticipation;

7. Frequent use of the hand to stop the ball; and

8. The ‘feint’ to baffle the defence.

“Hockey as played in India is the creme de la creme of what really first class hockey should be.”

Excerpts from Chapter 7, ‘Our Olympic debut,’ of Dhyan Chand’s autobiography, Goal. You can buy the book here

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