Dhyan Chand was born on 29th August 1905 at Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. He was born in a Rajput family. He loved wrestling but never took it up. He joined the army when he was sixteen years old. He joined as a Lance Naik. He joined the First Brahmin Regiment at Delhi in 1922 and was later moved to the Punjab Regiment. He grew in the army from a Lance Naik to a Major. He started taking interest in hockey after joining the army and hockey became a religion to him and he practiced it with the passion of an eager devotee.
Dhyan Chand came into the limelight when he toured New Zealand with the army team in 1926. He made his Olympic debut for India in 1928 at Amsterdam. India played the hosts Netherlands in the final and beat them 3-0 for the gold medal. The authorities reported that the final was not a game of hockey but it was a game of magic. In Amsterdam, the authorities even went as far as checking his hockey stick if there was any glue applied to it the way Dhyan Chand was making the ball to stick together with his hockey stick. Even the Japanese in later years had a similar suspicion. The Dutch hailed him as the magician of hockey.
India’s second gold medal was earned in the next Olympics held in Los Angeles in 1932. India played the host nation again, the United States, and won with a score of 24-1 which stood as a world record, with Dhyan Chand scoring eight of them.
Dhyan Chand was made Captain of the hockey team for the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Dhyan Chand played at his peak this year. It was once again the host nation, Germany, and the score was levelled at 1-1 at half time. Dhyan Chand was not keeping well. He came back after the mid time interval and played barefoot, scoring seven consecutive goals to give India its hat trick of gold medals. India beat Germany 8-1. His goal scoring even got to Adolf Hitler, the Chancellor at that time. Hitler was tempted to confiscate his hockey stick. Dhyan Chand’s performance in Berlin inspired Hitler to offer him the rank of a Colonel in the German Army if he was willing to migrate to Germany as Hitler wanted him to play for Germany in the future. Dhyan Chand declined the proposal at a banquet given in the Indian team’s honour. The Austrians were so impressed with Dhyan Chand that a sports club in Vienna built a statue of Dhyan Chand with four hands and four sticks. To the Viennese, it was a miracle that a man with two hands and one hockey stick could have played as well as Dhyan Chand did.
Dhyan Chand was given the Viceroy’s Commission in 1938 and the King’s Commission in 1943. The Government of India awarded him with the Padma Bhushan in 1956. He retired as a Major from the army. He became the Chief Hockey Coach at the National Institute of Sports.
He died on 3rd December 1979. Dhyan Chand is regarded as the father of modern day hockey. He is an Indian hockey legend. His birthday is celebrated as the National Sports Day in the country. The Indian Olympic Association has hailed him as the best Indian sports person of the century. People who saw him playing hockey had no words to describe his skills and his goal scoring finesse. He had an extra ordinary ability to keep the ball close to his hockey stick and penetrate the opposition’s defence repeatedly at a furious pace. Dhyan Chand had a playing career stretching from 1926 to 1948 and he has scored over a thousand goals in this period. He has scored more goals than any other hockey player in the world. Despite all his fame and achievements, he always remained a simple man. In fact, he starts his autobiography, which he called `Goal’, beginning with the words, “You are doubtless aware that I am a common man”. He had risen to become the greatest centre forward player ever in hockey. He had intelligence, reflexes, stamina and speed. What Sir Donald Bradman did to cricket and Pele did to football was done by Dhyan Chand to hockey. He symbolized the elevation of the sport of hockey to a very high status in the world.