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Major Dhyan Chand and the country's oldest Hockey tournament

Major Dhyan Chand and the countrys oldest Hockey tournament

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Published: 3 Dec 2018 5:24 AM GMT
When one looks back on times of war, it is revolutionary figures who occupy the center stage – standing out as examples of resilience and strong ethics that refused to bow down in the face of anarchic turmoil. But who among us thinks of sport? A sport that has survived absolutely everything, starting from the test of time to an age of war. The two World Wars were named such because the literal and metaphorical darkness that they brought with them affected nearly everyone in some varying degrees. Even the biggest multi-sport event in the world, the Olympics, were affected by the war. Worsening diplomatic relations and provocation on both sides of the gauntlet stopped the Games from being staged for nearly 8 years. And even before that, the event has served as a spectacle to showcase the truth of Aryan supremacy and Nazi propaganda- a political statement for sure. However, in an Indian state, once housing an earlier colonial capital of the country, the influence of sport on people’s day to day life was such that it refused to change for anything. Like the political leaders resiliently making a statement in face of international pressure, a Hockey tournament in Bengal remained persistingly through eras and phases that can best be described as chaotic. This is, of course, about the Beighton Cup, India’s oldest Hockey tournament. The first edition was in 1895. Barring one year when the communal violence during the Partition proved too much and last year when the unavailability of an astroturf in the city put it to a halt, this tournament has had a continuous run for 121 years. And this is the tournament that so allured
Major Dhyan Chand- India's foremost Hockey wizard.
The tournament’s legacy can only be explained in the words of Hockey Wizard Dhyan Chand who, in his autobiography, called the competition “the blue riband of Indian hockey” and named it the best-organised hockey tournament in the country. His memoirs recollect the year 1933 when Jhansi Warriors, the club he was part and captain of, was among the teams contending for the Beighton Cup for the first time. The final was a clash between Bengal’s all too famous Calcutta Customs team which had names like Shaukat Ali, Asad Ali, Claude Deefholts in their roster.
In a surprising turn of events, it was the Warriors who lifted the title at the end of a fantastically close match. The event fulfilled Dhyan Chand’s longtime dream of conquering the Beighton Cup. This was the first and last time Jhansi Warriors finished as winners. For a tournament that has numerous such stories to tell and histories to study, it seems to be quite problematic that such little attention is being paid to it. For the active hockey players in Bengal, the Beighton Cup is a symbol of the state’s rich contribution to the game. If one takes a walk through Kolkata’s famous Red Road, it is mind-numbing to comprehend the amount of history that is cramped within a few hundred metres of space. The huge grounds at Maidan are a daily testament to Kolkata’s love affair with not just football and cricket but all sport. You have the famous sporting clubs nested quite close to each other with a background of Eden Gardens, the cricket stadium, at a distance. Between the basketball court attached to Mohammedan Sporting’s compound and East Bengal’s practice ground, is a small stretch of land dedicated to Hockey. A city and its passion for the sport that managed to impress the great wizard himself- that has got to count for something. Kolkata pays tribute to Major Dhyan Chand on National Sports Day every year where the luminaries of Bengal sport are honoured in tandem with their contributions to the city's rich history. The Beighton Cup and everything surrounding it is a living, breathing tribute to the man who is the face of Indian Hockey and Indian sport for the longest time.
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