A “Wizard” or a “Magician” who refused Hitler’s offer!

Major Dhyan Chand (29 August 1905 – 3 December 1979) was an Indian hockey player and one of the greatest hockey players in the history of the sport. He was known for his extraordinary goal-scoring feats, in addition to earning three Olympic gold medals, in 1928, 1932 and 1936, during an era where India dominated field hockey. His influence extended beyond these victories, as India won the field hockey event in seven out of eight Olympics from 1928 to 1964.

Dhyan Chand was often called a ‘magician’ on the Hockey field. Such was his aura that it spread beyond India to Germany, Britain, Japan and Holland. In India, the Hockey player had defined the very nature of the sport, his birthday being commemorated as National Sports Day. While in UK, Dhyan Chand has a tube station to his name, in Vienna a statue has been erected to pay homage to the genius with sticks. While legends and myths have for long surrounded Dhyan Chand’s fame, a particular incident that happened in Germany during the Olympics is often talked about while discussing the Hockey star’s international repute.

पढ़िए, हॉकी के 'जादूगर' मेजर ध्यानचंद ...

Let’s look at some interesting facts about him –

  • The hockey legend Dhyan Chand was born on 29th August 1905 in Allahabad.
  • Destiny had already set a bigger role for Dhyan Chand because as a young boy Dhyan Chand used to love wrestling.
  • Dhyan Chand was employed by the British Indian Army as a Sepoy at the age of 16.
  • Dhyan Singh got the name of Dhyan Chand because he used to do practice during the late-night hours under the moon (Chand) light; his fellow players gave him this name.
  • Fuhrer of Germany Adolf Hitler was so impressed by Dhyan Chand’s stick work that he offered him German citizenship and the rank of Colonel in his army.
  • The fear of Dhyan Chand’s marvellous gameplay forced the officials in the Netherlands to break his hockey stick to check if there was a magnet inside.
  • In 1936, Dhyan Chand lost a tooth when he collided with German goalkeeper Tito Warnholtz.
  • Dhyan Chand helped India in earning three Olympic gold medals (1928, 1932 and 1936).
  • Dhyan Chand was also known as “The Wizard.” He scored more than 400 goals in his international career.
  • Australian great Don Bradman met Dhyan Chand at Adelaide in 1935. After watching him play, Bradman remarked, “He scores goals like runs in cricket”.
  • To honour Dhyan Chand, the residents of Vienna, Austria had set up a statue with four hands and four hockey sticks, depicting his mastery in the game.
  • Once, when Dhyan Chand was unable to score in a match, he argued with the match referee about the measurement of the goal post. To everybody’s amazement, he was right; the goal post was found to be in contravention of the official minimum width prescribed under international rules.
  • Dhyan Chand was honoured with Padma Bhushan in 1956.
  • He retired from the army with the rank of Major.
  • National Sports Day is celebrated on 29th August which is Dhyan Chand’s birthday.
  • Dhyan Chand’s son Ashok Dhyan Chand scored an important goal in the 1975 Kuala Lumpur Hockey World Cup to win the Gold Medal in a match against Pakistan.
  • Dhyan Chand Award is given by the Ministry Of Youth Affairs and Sports, Govt. Of India for lifetime achievement in the field of sports and games. The award was initiated in 2002.
  • The Indian contingent was one of the few to not give Hitler the customary Nazi salute at the opening ceremony.

How he refused Hitler’s offer.

In 1936, the Indian Hockey team was putting their best in the Berlin Olympics. The semi-final was against France whom they had defeated 10-0. Chand had scored 4 goals in that match. The team was scheduled to clash against hosts Germany on August 15. Apparently, the team was excessively nervous on the day of finals as they had been defeated in the previous match against Germany.

A group of 40,000 were present in the crowd to watch the two teams clash. In the audience were top Nazi officials like Hermann Goering, Joseph Goebbels, Joachim Ribbentrop and the Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler. While the Indian side could not score a single goal till the interval, in the second half they went on a full swing attack, defeating Germany 8-1. Reportedly, Dhyan Chand played the game barefooted and later with rubber slippers, leaving the audience awestruck with his astute performance.

Hitler Once Offered Dhyan Chand German Citizenship But He Refused It

The game ended with Adolf Hitler leaving the stadium in frustration. Later, however, he came back to present the team their medals. The following day Dhyan Chand was surprised to receive a message from the Fuhrer, asking him to come and meet him. The Hockey genius was understandably worried as he had heard stories of the Nazi dictator shooting people on the spot.

On meeting him, Hitler welcomed Dhyan Chand warmly in his private box in the stadium. He then asked Dhyan Chand what he did in India, to which Chand explained that he worked in the Indian army. Hitler is then believed to have offered Dhyan Chand a high post in the German army on account of his splendid performance in the Olympic finals to which the Fuhrer was a witness. Dhyan Chand, however, politely refused the offer saying that his family resided in India and that it would be difficult for him to relocate. The German dictator was understanding his position and ended the meeting.

It was not without reason that the government of India issued a postage stamp in his honour and conferred on him one of India’s highest civilian distinctions, the Padma Bhushan, in 1956.

Written By Radhika Bansal, She is doing her Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication from Amity University, Noida. She is interested in covering political, international and humanitarian issues.

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