The truth about the life of a man is not what he does, but the legend which he creates around himself. Let’s talk about Balbir Singh Dosanjh, wizard of Indian Hockey.
Balbir Singh Dosanjh is undoubtedly India’s greatest ever center forward. He won three Olympic Gold medals for the nation. He played a key role in India’s wins in London (1948), Helsinki (1952) (as vice-captain), and Melbourne (1956) (as captain) Olympics. Balbir Singh Dosanjh, passed away at 96 (31 December 1923 – 25 May 2020). He was no ordinary Indian hockey player.
His Olympic record for most goals scored by an individual in an Olympic men’s hockey final remains unbeaten. Singh set this record when he scored five goals in India’s 6–1 victory over the Netherlands in the gold medal game of the 1952 Olympic Games.
Bhishma Pitamah of world hockey, he was acknowledged by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2012. He legend was named among the world’s 16 greatest icons, across all sports.
As a teen, Balbir Singh Dosanjh got hooked on Hockey after watching a few black and white newsreels of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. He was mesmerized, the way Dhyan Chand sold dummies to the opposition defenders. That was the day he decided to become a hockey player and win medals for India.
A special honor was given to him in the 1952 and 1956 Olympic Games as he was chosen the flag bearer of the Indian contingent. The Indian men’s field hockey team recorded a historic sequence of six consecutive Olympic titles between 1928 and 1956. The prolific center forward Balbir Singh played a key role in the latter three of those famous triumphs. He not only scored crucial goals but also led his boys to glory in 1956.
Balbir Singh Dosanjh was 23 when he made his Olympic debut, spearheading India’s attack against Argentina in their second match. A talented youngster he made an immediate impact, scoring a double hat-trick (6 out of 9 goals) in an impressive 9-1 victory. After winning the Olympic gold medal thrice (48,52&56), Balbir Singh Dosanjh brought laurels to the nation in other world tournaments as well. He represented the Indian Hockey team at Tokyo Asian Games 1958 and Jakarta Asian Games 1962. India won a silver medal at both events.
After his playing career got over he served as the manager and chief coach of the Indian Hockey team. As a chief Coach/ Manager trained Eight Indian Teams for InterNational Tournaments- Each team had a Podium. In the 1971 World Cup Hockey tournament, under his coaching, the Indian team managed to grab a bronze medal. The golden moment of his coaching career came in the 1975 Hockey World cup when the Indian team was crowned world champions.
Every time he described the medal ceremony of the 1948 Games — his arms rising slowly to depict India’s flag being hoisted for the first time — Singh’s eyes would moist over. “As a child, I used to ask my father (Dalip Singh Dosanjh), who was a freedom fighter, what independence meant and what we would get out of it. He’d reply that independence would give us our own identity, flag and pride forever,” said Singh, in an interview to this paper in August 2018. “That day, when our flag was hoisted in front of thousands at Wembley stadium, I realised what independence meant. It was the proudest moment for me and for all Indians back home. When the national anthem was played and the flag was going up, I felt like I was flying.”
Awards and Recognitions
- Balbir Singh Dosanjh was the first sportsperson to be honored with the Padma Shri award in 1957.
- In 1958, he along with Gurdev Singh, was featured on a stamp issued by the Dominican Republic to commemorate the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
- He lit the Flame at the Asian Games 1982 held at New Delhi.
- In a poll conducted by the Pioneer newspaper in 1982, he was adjudged as the Player of the Century.
- In 2006 he was named the Best Sikh Hockey Player of All Times.
- Hockey India honored him with the Major Dhyan Chand Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.
- He has his name in The Guinness Book of World Records for the longest unbroken record of scoring maximum goals in any Olympic Hockey Finals.
- During 2012 London Olympics -Chosen as one of sixteen iconic Olympians’, across all participants in all disciplines since the start of the modern Olympic Era in 1896 (a period of 116 years) by the custodians of Olympic History, The Olympic Museum (Lausanne) to have their Olympic Journey Showcased! Only Sportsperson from World Hockey, Only Asian Man & Only Indian – to be honored in this manner !!