— Consider reading the article Remembering Major Dhyan Chand: The Indian hockey wizard who stood up to Adolf Hitler on OpIndia website —
Major Dhyan Chand (1905-1979) is regarded as a ‘magician’ in the field of hockey. His contribution to the sport has been immense so much so that the legend is adored not only in India but worldwide. As India celebrates the National Sports Day, let us look back at one of the memorable events of his career on his 115th birth anniversary.
The year was 1936 and Nazi Germany was hosting the Summer Olympics. The Indian hockey team had made it into the finals after defeating France with a score of 10-0. The Indian team was set to play against the hosts who were anticipating a victory in the final game. The match was scheduled on August 15 and the Indian side was ‘excessively nervous’.
Dhyan Chand turned India’s fortunes in Berlin Olympics’ hockey final
The Indian hockey team had a bad start. They were unable to score a goal in the first half. However, their fortunes turned in the second half when the team scored aggressively and was successful in putting up a score of 8-1 against Germany. The crowd of 40,000 people was taken aback by the stellar performance of barefooted Dhyan Chand and his personal contribution of 6 goals. Adolf Hitler, who had come to cheer for his team, reportedly left the stadium out of frustration. He, however, came back to hand over medals to the Indian team.
Dhyan Chand declined offer by Adolf Hitler
On August 16, 1936, Dhyan Chand received a message from Hitler, asking the hockey wizard to meet him. Chand was surprised and scared as he had heard stories about Hitler killing people on the spot. During their meeting, Hitler asked the Indian hockey legend about his profession and offered him a high-ranking position in the German army, after learning that he served as a Major in the Indian army. However, Dhyan Chand politely refused his offer, citing inconvenience in relocating to Germany with his family. The Nazi dictator, who was awestruck by his performance on the field, understood concerns raised by Chand and concluded their meeting in the private box of the stadium.
‘India is not for sale’
According to Saiyed Ali Sibtain Naqvi, the ex-coach of the Indian hockey team, Dhyan Chand stood up to Adolf Hitler firmly. “He replied to Hitler with closed eyes but in a bold voice of an Indian soldier that India is not for sale,” Naqvi recounted the hockey wizard narrating this story to him personally. He informed that Hitler not only saluted Dhyan Chand but also conferred the title of ‘Wizard of Hockey’ on him. “To the utter surprise of the entire stadium, Hitler saluted him, instead of shaking his hand and said, ‘The German nation salutes you for the love of your country India and your nationalism’,” Naqvi clarified.