Balbir Singh Senior on 40 years of Indian hockey

Balbir Singh Dosanjh (31 December 1923 – 25 May 2020) was one of India’s finest hockey players. He was a three-time Olympic gold medallist, having played a key role in India’s wins in London (1948), Helsinki (1952) (as vice-captain), and Melbourne (1956) (as captain) Olympics.

He is regarded as one of the greatest hockey players of all time, a modern-day Dhyan Chand, a legend of the sport and is widely regarded as the sport’s greatest ever centre-forward.

His Olympic record for most goals scored by an individual in an Olympic men’s hockey final remains unbeaten. Singh set this record when he scored five goals in India’s 6–1 victory over the Netherlands in the gold medal game of the 1952 Olympic Games.

He was often called Balbir Singh Senior to distinguish him from other Indian hockey players named Balbir Singh. Interestingly, several Balbir Singhs have played hockey for India.

Singh was the manager and chief coach of the Indian team for the 1975 Men’s Hockey World Cup, which India won, and the 1971 Men’s Hockey World Cup, where India earned a bronze medal.

During the London Olympics in 2012, Singh was honoured in the Olympic Museum exhibition, “The Olympic Journey: The Story of the Games” held at the Royal Opera House. The exhibition told the story of the Olympic Games from its creation in 776BC through to the London 2012 Olympic Games. He was one of the 16 iconic Olympians chosen whose example “tells of human strength and endeavour, of passion, determination, hard work and achievement and demonstrates the values of the Olympic Movement”.

Singh died at the age of 96 in Mohali on 25 May 2020.

This rare interview was recorded by Dr Vijay Rana, editor of Indian Briefings in 1987, in which Balbir Singh talks about his glaring record and also about the rise and fall of Indian hockey.

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