Hockey stick & love for nation — two things he never parted with

Hockey stick & love for nation — two things he never parted with

Balbir Singh in his young days.

Deepankar Sharda
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, May 25

For a legend as tall as Balbir Singh Sr, memories of his career were part and parcel of his everyday life. There was not a single day when he would not reminisce the good old times of his golden years as a hockey player and would love to talk about it whenever he had a chance.

“You are very young, I could make you sit on the same sofa for three days and talk about my achievements and what all my team has done,” Balbir was quoted as having said to a reporter during an interview on his 91st birthday in 2015.

A favourite of the media fraternity in the city, the hockey veteran never failed to amaze them with his sharp memory. He used to share numerous moments of his life — starting from his young school days to the journey of grabbing three Olympics gold medals. The cheery legend never did part with two things until the end of his garlanded journey — the hockey stick and his love for the nation. The other fascinating thing about him that everyone was fond of was his admiration for his team. “I am nothing without my team and country,” Balbir used to reiterate frequently. His love for the country largely descended from his father (Dalip Singh Dosanjh), who was a freedom fighter.

On an odd day, he would not hesitate in criticising the authorities for losing the memorabilia he had handed over to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) in 1985 for a museum.

That included his captain’s blazer from the Melbourne Olympics, 36 medals and over 100 rare photographs.

Striker who wanted to be a goalkeeper

“I wanted to be a goalkeeper. But as destiny wanted, I got an amazing coach who forced me to play as a striker. I was poor in studies and my father decided to send me to Lahore. But the problem with my academics remained,” he had revealed during an interview. Perhaps, he was the only hockey player whose well-wishers approached the then Indian High Commissioner in London, VK Krishna Menon, after he was not selected for the 39-member probables squad during the 1950s.

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