Balbir Singh, India’s Legendary Hockey Player Who Inspired ‘Gold’
Video Editors: Sandeep Suman and Abhishek Sharma
Such was India’s dominance in hockey since the pre-independence days that the national pride got synonymous with the game. Before 1947, India won three back-to-back gold in hockey at the Olympics. The trend continued even after the British left the country. But the win at London in the 1948 Olympics will always be the sweetest not only because it was the first gold post-independence but also since it came against Great Britain – our erstwhile colonial master, and at their own backyard.
The hockey gold at 1948 Olympics always had legendary status in India’s sporting history and so was the team which made it possible. But thanks to this week’s Independence Day release, Gold, starring Akshay Kumar, which deals with same story, the historic hockey triumph has again found it way among the younger generation.
The hero of the final for India was Balbir Singh Senior, who opened the scoring against Great Britain as early as in the third minute. After the first goal, the Indian side were moving like a well-oiled machine and it took only seven minutes for India to double their margin. And it was again centre-forward Balbir Singh who registered his name for the score sheet.
“It was at Wembley Stadium in 1948. India were facing Great Britain for the first time. India had won the gold in hockey at the 1928, 1932 and 1936 Olympics under Dhyan Chand. So, in 1948 when we took field it was for the first time as independent India. Pakistan now had their own hockey team. So, winning at that time was really special,” recounted Balbir Singh Senior at the launch of JSW’s Inspire Institute of Sport Vijayanagara, Karnataka, while wearing the broadest of his smiles.
After seventy minutes of play and two more goals later, India won the final 4-0 against Great Britain to bring home their first goal from the Olympics as an independent nation.
In the movie ‘Gold’, actor Sunny Kaushal’s character Himmat Singh is loosely based on Balbir Singh Sr.
He not only played a heroic hand in the final. In their first league game against Argentina also he scored half a dozen goal which included a hat-trick. India eventually won the match with a huge margin of 9-0. India remained unbeaten in the competition, notching up win against Austria (8-0) and Spain (2-0) during the group stages. Later in the semi-final they defeated Netherlands by slender margin of 2-1, probably their most difficult match of the competition.