The first Indian contingent was sent to the Olympics in 1920 but it was not until 1928 that an Indian Hockey team made an appearance at the biggest competition in the World.
1928. That was the year which, in many ways, began the ascension to the top for the Indian Men’s Hockey scenario; the beginning of what would be the Golden period for the country in the sport where they would hitherto remain undefeated and undisputable champions for the years.
The scene was set in Amsterdam. On May 26, 1928. India took the World by storm as they defeated Netherlands to lift the trophy. However, lesser known stories regarding the build up to the Olympic Games speak of how unexpected the Gold medal actually was.
Before traveling to Amsterdam, the Indian Olympic Team wanted to make sure that adequate preparation was at hand for the first ever team at the tournament to not disappoint. They played a practice fixture against the State team of Bombay. Hopes and dreams came crashing down that day as the Olympics-bound team lost out 3-2 to the state team with Hockey Wizard Dhyan Chand scoring both goals for the losing side.
Clearly, as things stood, any medal, let alone a Gold medal, seemed to be a distant wish that was just out of hand.
But that was not the end of the troubles that the team had to face before the Games actually began. Reports suggest that two Indian players, Shaukat Ali and Rex A Norris had been dropped from the team in the final minutes because of a gaping lack of funds. Luckily, there were patrons from the state of Bengal who, upon hearing of this misfortune, proceeded to raise funds for the Indian National team to ensure that the best possible squad was fielded for a competition that clearly demanded one.
The captain of this team was Jaipal Singh, a youngster from Khunti now in the state of Jharkhand. Altogether, a squad of 15 men was put together for the 1928 Olympics and this was the team that went on to create history in Hockey- it was a story that would be remembered for decades to come.
The first two matches saw absolute whitewashes by the Indian team against Austria and Belgium after they were defeated by huge margins of 6-0 and 9-0 respectively. In fact, it was Dhyan Chand who scored a first half hattrick in the opening game against Austria and thus, established at the very outset that India were going to be a force to reckon with. Belgium, considered a powerhouse within Europe, were left quietly stunned by the heroes from India.
The third match against Denmark also saw a clean sheet maintained by the team. So far, in three matches, no one had succeeded in conceding a goal against India and this is just indicative of the resolute grit that the Indian team brought with itself.
Add to that the fact that India also won the summit clash without letting in a single goal. The scoreline stood at 3-0 with the Indian team led in its challenge against Netherlands by none other than Dhyan Chand who scored a hattrick.
When the Indian team left for Amsterdam to participate in the Olympics aboard the ship Kaiser-E-Hind, the only people who came to see off the Indian team were two officials from the Indian Hockey Federation and a solitary journalist.
When they returned with the trophy, the Indian team was greeted with hundreds of fans waiting to immortalise the legacy of Hockey’s golden generation