The history of the game of hockey has its roots well laid in the world’s early civilizations. One of the oldest known sports, the game is believed to be in existence about 1200 years before the Ancient Games of Olympia. Right from Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Persians to Ethiopians, everyone played a variation of the game. While some played it just for recreation, the others were of the opinion that hockey would make them better warriors. Even though many ancient civilizations played hockey in different variations, the modern game of hockey, the field hockey, developed in the British Isles in the 19th century.
A popular English school game, hockey was introduced in India by British Army regiments and the game soon found to be favor among the native Indians. Spreading internationally, the popularity of the game was especially effervescent in India and Pakistan. It was during this time that the London Hockey Association was formed and the rules for playing hockey were standardized. In 1924, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) was formed and three years later, the nternational Federation of Women’s Hockey followed.
Hockey in India
Talking about hockey in India, the first hockey club came up in Calcutta in 1885-86 and soon Bombay and Punjab followed suit. Making its Olympic debut at the 1928 Amsterdam Games, Indian hockey team cruised home to its first Olympic gold, without conceding a single goal. The hallmark of this ruthless domination was the wizardry of Indian hockey legend - Dhyan Chand, who mesmerized the Amsterdam crowd with his dazzling skills. From 1928 to 1956, the Indian hockey juggernaut won six straight Olympic gold medals, while winning 24 consecutive matches. During this time, India scored 178 goals conceding only 7 in the process.
This was the golden era of Indian hockey, when India loomed large in world hockey and produced some of the finest players the game has ever seen. During this dominance, one name that clearly comes to mind is Balbir Singh. For almost three decades, Indian team had about five players with the same name. The first Balbir Singh played with the great Indian teams of 1948, 1952 and 1956. He reached the pinnacle of success at Helsinki in 1952 when he scored five goals in a 6-1 gold medal victory over the Netherlands. The four later Balbir Singhs played with the later Indian champions.
The Indian stranglehold over the Olympic hockey gold came to an end, when Pakistan defeated India in the final of the 1960 Rome Olympics. However, the record created by India is likely to stand strong through ages, as no other country has ever managed to come close to it, leave about beating it. Talking about some of the legendary and outstanding players of Indian hockey, Dhyan Chand, K.D. Singh, Dhanraj Pillay and Dilip Tirkey are some names that come to mind instantly. Thanks to their exceptional gaming technique and enduring enthusiasm, the position of India in the field of hockey achieved new heights.