Hockey is the “unofficial national sport” of India. In fact, there is no national sport in the country, but hockey owing to love and nationalism it evokes in the heart of the country men, specially owing to its glorious past and its past global dominance, is often called the national sport of India.
India’s first Hockey World Cup title in 1975. After that they won eight gold medals at the Olympics, between 1928 and 1980. India dominated through the eight glorious Olympic gold medals and after that it has been a dry spell unfortunately. The emergence of the astroturf and the inability of the management to change with the changing times led to the sad decline of the much loved sports in the country. The resurrection to the present times with stellar performance in Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey tournament and Champions Trophy, make for a compelling saga of unbridled glory, painful decline and a firm resolve to scale the former heights.
The designation of the national sport of a nation is on the basis of the popularity of a game or its historical connects from that nation. The most influencing factor is the pride that the game evokes in the hearts of the countrymen.
Field hockey is a tough game, played on grass as well as turf, a synthetic mat- like material. The Indian Hockey team has performed in phenomenal ways during 1920-1950. The game has been around for as much as 1200 years down the line in history and is probably one of the most ancient games in present day. The governing body behind the game, International Hockey Federation, was founded long back in 1924. The Indian Hockey team participated in the Amsterdam Olympics for the first time in 1928.
The Indian Hockey team has performed exceptionally well in the Olympics which became a focal point of the nations’ pride. The stats are too good to believe as the Indian team has won 6 consecutive gold medals between 1928 to1956 in the Olympic Games. The game now faces problems in ruling the hearts of billions as a result of commercialization of sports and inadequate facilities provided to the team.
It was not an easy journey for the Indian Hockey team when they set out to play in the Olympics. Jaipal Singh a young lad from Ranchi who was pursuing his studies in Balliol Oxford was made the Indian Hockey Team Captain for the Olympic games of the year 1928. There were monetary scarcity and two players Shaukat Ali and Rex A Norris had to be released from the team. As the news spread supporter from Bengal came in great numbers to donate money and saw to it that the players were able to participate in the game. However, amidst all the trouble what a magnificent game that was played. Dhyan Chand scored 14 goals in the tournament while India did not acknowledge a single goal. Dhyan Chand, Allen, Norris, Pinniger, Yusuf Gateley and Cullen were some legendary hockey players. The whole nation and the world celebrated the Indian hockey team’s fantastic performance.
It was in the year 1960 that the denomination started to drop as India lost to Pakistan. Post 1980 India struggled on one of the reasons being the introduction of Astro turf which the players found difficult due to lack of proper training facilities on Astro turf. However, slowly again the game is regaining its lost glory. Women Hockey has also picked up in the recent years.
However, it was sad when a recent RTI revealed that Hockey officially isn’t a National Sport of India.
The glorious past of Indian Hockey at a glance
1928: This is the first time India won the gold at the Olympics and the country won six consecutive Olympic gold medal after that
1960: Pakistan came out triumphs this time bagging gold by defeating India in the finals
1964: It was payback time as India wrested the gold medal from Pakistan. This was India’s seventh Olympic gold medal. President Dr. Radhakrishnan and Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri congratulated the gold medal winning team.
With World Cup just a week away, it is hoped that India will regain its former glory and lift the cup once again erasing bitter memories of recent failures and setbacks.