Hockey player Balbir Singh – One of the greatest sportspersons of the country, legendary Hockey player Balbir Singh, left for heavenly abode on May 25, 2020. Balbir Singh was instrumental in leading the newly independent India to win its first-ever Olympic gold medal at the London Olympics in 1948.
The world had just recovered from the horrors of World War II and India had just gained its independence from British rule, so the London Olympics, also known as the Austerity Games, had the entire world following it closely. And to win the London Olympics at that stage, at that time, meant a great deal to our entire country. The Independent Indian Men’s Hockey Team, as it was called then, defeated the very nation they gained independence from, Great Britain 4-0 to clinch their first-ever Olympic gold medal.
Hockey player Balbir Singh
23-year-old Balbir Singh, who played as a center forward in the team, scored two goals in the finals. When asked about how he felt about the match in an interview, Balbir Singh said that it was almost impossible to express the amount of joy he felt and that one had to experience something like that to truly understand how it felt. He even said that the memory of his first Olympic Games in London 1948 was still fresh in his mind. He said that the win meant so much for him and his countrymen. The amount of pride he felt on seeing the ‘Tiranga’ go up made him recall his freedom fighter father’s words, “Our Flag, Our Country”.
The Indian team was successful in defending their title in the two consecutive Olympic games held at Helsinki and Melbourne respectively. Balbir scored 5 goals in India’s unparalleled victory over the Netherlands in the 1952 Olympic finals, an unbeaten record to date. In the subsequent games in 1956, Singh captained the Indian Team which scored record 38 goals in just 5 matches without conceding any. Singh led his country and his team to a 1-0 victory over Pakistan in the finals, thus completing the hattrick of wins for the Indian Team.
Hockey player Balbir Singh
Balbir Singh also had many goals under his belt when he represented his country in the Asian Games 1958 and 1962 respectively. After serving India on the field, he began his career as a coach which was successful as well. He motivated the Indian Team to win the Hockey World Cup for the first time in 1975.
Balbir Singh took his last breath at the age of 95 in Chandigarh, after fighting a long pulmonary illness. Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with Hockey India President Md. Mustaque Ahmad paid their tributes to one of the greatest hockey players to have ever lived, on twitter.