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Home Hockey Throwback: The Indian village that produced 14 Olympians

Throwback: The Indian village that produced 14 Olympians

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Hockey holds a distinct place in the history of Indian sports. It is the sport that has brought the greatest glory in the Olympics with a world record of eight gold medals. Over the years, the sport has thrived through some highly talented players from across the country and there are a few particular places like Jalandhar, Odisha, Kodagu which have regularly churned out quality hockey players.

However, to ponder in the depth of this regional affiliation with the sport, one must not forget about the contribution from a small village in the outskirts of Jalandhar in Punjab. Often referred to as the Mecca of Indian hockey, the village Sansarpur has produced some of the greatest hockey players not only for the country but also for other international hockey teams. As many as 14 Olympians have come up from the village and they have gone on to win 27 medals for India.

A village with a population of 5,000 saw Subedar Thakur Singh as the first hockey player of Sansarpur who went on an overseas tour to represent India. Thakur Singh got the privilege of playing under the captaincy of Major Dhyan Chand while touring New Zealand. Colonel Gurmit Singh was the first-ever athlete to make a big name for himself who hailed from the village. He represented the Indian team in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games and that was just the beginning.

The Indian hockey team at the 1968 Olympics (Image: CNN News I8)
The Indian hockey team at the 1968 Olympics (Image: CNN News I8)

If once asks how this village became such a big name in hockey, it is because the people there drew their inspiration from the British soldiers who practised the sport at the ground containment region situated near the village. The British Army needed players for its various hockey teams . Sansarpur being one of the nearest villages to the Cantonment , Army people first came into contact with them. When one or two Sansarpuris got themselves enlisted in Army and played hockey for various Army teams, the job, recognition and opportunity to visit various places became motivating factors for others and playing hockey became a symbol of prestige for young Sansarpuris. The villagers used branches of the mulberry tree as hockey sticks, while the balls used were woven from cotton threads. Players like Babu Mohan, Balbir Singh, Sardar Atma Singh were among the legends who represented India from the village.

Ajit Pal Singh (Image: edubilla.com)
Ajit Pal Singh (Image: edubilla.com)

The legacy of the Sansarpur boys reached its pinnacle in 1968 when seven of them went on to participate at the Mexico Olympics. Year 1968, and Mexico had hosted the Olympics. Of the seven players, five represented India while the rest two donned the Kenyan shirt. Ajit Pal Singh, another legend from this village led the Indian team to lift their first-ever hockey World Cup in 1975.

The village which once produced stalwarts like Udham Singh, Balbir Singh and Ajit Pal Singh has been out of business for long. Many blames it on the drug menace that has ravaged Punjab over the last few decades. From educational institutions to playgrounds, the crisis has wreaked havoc by disrupting the normal state of affairs in people’s everyday lives.

Olympians from Sansarpur who represented India
1. Col Gurmit Singh Kular 1932,
2. S. Udham Singh Kular 1952, 56, 60, 64,
3. S. Gurdev Singh Kular 1956,
4. S. Dashan Singh Kular 1964,
5. S. Balbir Singh Kular 1964, 68,
6. Col. Balbir Singh Kular 1968,
7. S. Jagjit Singh Kular 1964, 68,
8. Tarsem Singh Kular 1968,
9. S. Ajit Pal Singh Kular 1968, 72, 76

Olympians from Sansarpur who represented Kenya
1. Late Hardian Singh Kular 1968, 72,
2. S. Hardev Singh Kular 1956, 1960,
3. S. Jagjit Singh Kular 1968,
4. S. Harvinder Singh Kular 1988
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Olympian who has represented Canada
1. Bindi Singh Kular 2000

Also read: Throwback: When Dhyan Chand’s brother outscored him in the 1932 Olympics

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