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Hockey: Our National Game

nternational hockey began in 1895 and the game was brought to India by the British army in the early 19th century. The game flourished in and around cantonment towns and among the enlisted men of the services, but the people to whom the game came most naturally were the Punjabis, the athletic and hardy people of pre-partition India.

Hockey became the National Game of India. The epic of hockey on the subcontinent began in 1925 and India won six straight Olympic golds, starting in 1928 under the captaincy of Jaipal Singh with the support of the legendary Dhyan Chand. The 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games recorded the highest win margin when the Indians defeated the hosts 24-1 to win the gold. India scored 178 goals (at an average of 7.43 goals per match) and conceded only seven goals. The goals were scored by two brothers: Roop Singh and Dhyan Chand. This was a remarkable series of victories, considered the golden era of hockey in the country and, clearly, India were the World Champions.

Then, in 1960, for the first time since India began playing hockey in the Olympics, we lost to Pakistan. Subsequently, India won two more gold medals in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Alas, that was the last. India did win silver and bronze medals for a few years, but since 1976 India have not been called the “Hockey Champions” again.

Two decades later, six Olympic Games have gone by, with expectations unfulfilled. The questions now are: Is hockey still our National Game? What caused this debacle or decline? Can the present Indian Hockey Federation offer us a ray of hope?

Well, that is not for us to decide. But we can debate whether this game is worth fighting for. What is hockey all about? Hockey is a fast and skilful game played in over 80 different countries. It is a thrilling game, which provides plenty of fun to young and old, men and women. The aim of hockey is very simple: your team of 11 players tries to move the hockey ball up the pitch and into the opposing goal by using hockey sticks alone. Meanwhile, the 11 opponents do all they can to stop this happening and, instead, try to move the ball into the goal at your end of the pitch. In many ways hockey is similar to football with respect to patterns of team play, marking, running with the ball and support play. But the important differences are the toss-up and pass back, and that a goal can be scored only if it has been shot from inside the shooting circle.

I often ask myself why hockey is not played in Udayachal School. Is there a lack of equipment? No! Do we have a shortage of grounds? Of course not! I think the answer lies in reviving the game. In The Week dated 2 April, 2000, Vinod Kumar writes from London: “We know how sad our position is when it comes to our National Game, hockey … Why can’t we produce Olympic champions? In the answer to this question lies the future of Indian sports. And, if our child aspires to be a gymnast, let us not put him off simply because India has never produced a great one.” It should be a challenge for one and all, young or old, sportsman or engineer, to inspire our P.T. masters and students to make a beginning and play the game with the facilities we have, and there will surely emerge many more champions of the game. I look forward to that day.

Evangeline Ranjan
Udayachal High School


To be honest with oneself is to be happy.