Sports has been a very important part of India's history. From pre-independence till now Indian sportspersons have made the country proud time and again. The nation has produced famous sports personalities like Major Dhyan Chand, Sachin Tendulkar, Milkha Singh, Mary Kom, etc. They are listed among the greatest ever sports personalities of all-time in the world.
On the occassion of National Sports Day, August 29, 2019 which is celebrated on the birth anniversary of arguably the greatest sportsperson that India has produced, Dhyan Chand, lets revisit the famous 1936 Berlin Olympic men's field hockey final when India under Dhyan Chand's leadership defeated the Adolf Hitler-led Germany's national team 8-1 to complete a hat-trick of gold medals at the quadrennial event.
India's journey to the final
India had won the gold medal in the previous two editions of the Olympics in 1928 Amsterdam and 1932 Los Angeles respectively. They were the defending champions and had a lot of pressure on them as the world thought that they were no longer invincible.
The Indian team were not held as the favourites as many believed that it was due to Europeans not participating in the Los Angeles Olympics that India won. The popular belief among people around the world was that India won't be able to repeat the feat third time in a row. The Indian Olympic squad was picked in February 1936 and they faced a shocking defeat at the hands of a local Delhi-based team.
This aroused many questions regarding the capability of the team and fingers were pointed at the newly appointed captain Dhyan Chand.
The Indian team started their tournament with a 9-0 victory over Japan followed by a 4-0 drubbing of Hungary. They continued their brilliant run and finished on the top of their group by defeating USA 7-0 in their final group fixture.
The performance of the team and especially Roop Singh, Dara and Dhyan Chand caught the eyes of the people. Team India, by their display, proved that they were a gold-medal contender in the event.
India's display in the semi-final against France was one of the the greatest performances ever by an Indian hockey team. Dhyan Chand, known for his wizard-like skills scored four goals on that occasion and the deft passing, speed and finesse with which Team India played mesmerized the crowd present at the stadium.
With such an impressive victory in the semi-finals, India issued a silent warning for der Fuhrer's nation.
'Final' triumph at Olympic hockey stadium, Berlin
The stage was set for the Indian contingent to prove their worth as the defending champions. The 1936 Berlin Olympic's was used by Hitler to propagate Nazi ideology to the world. The Fuhrer wanted to use the Olympics to showcase a new unified Germany and the supremacy of the 'Aryan' race to the world.
Though the German ruler was not much into sports he was present on some of the occasions of the greatest sporting event on earth. He wanted the national team to win the hockey final and not bow down to the then British-ruled Indian side. But the Indian team had other plans in their mind. The wizard of India opened the scoring in the 32nd minute and the score remained 1-0 in the first half.
In the second half of the match, the Indian players were too good for their German counterparts to handle as they conquered the stadium with their beautiful display and clever gameplay. Dhyan Chand scored four goals in the match as India dominated the whole game, winning it 8-1.
The Indian players mesmerised the estimated 20,000 spectators as they seemed like gliding on the ground scoring one goal after another. The players were such experts of the craft of passing that it looked like that they were painting a beautiful picture with their gameplay. Finally, the Indians became successful in proving the world wrong by winning the gold for the third time in a row.
'Conquering' the Fuhrer
Legend says that Hitler was present at the ground and furiously left when the Indian team were punishing the German side with their beautiful display. After the match, Hitler was so impressed by Dhyan Chand that he not only offered him German citizenship but also a position in his Army the next day. Dhyan Chand refused the offer due to family reasons. But the Indian dribbling wizard was able to conquer the hearts of everyone who saw his magical display.