1936 Olympic Games: When Major Dhyan Chand declined Hitler’s invitation to play for Germany

The Magician and wizard of Hockey, Major Dhyan Chand stood up to Hitler in the 1936 Olympic Games, after winning an Olympic gold medal in hockey.

Major Dhyan Chand
Major Dhyan Chand

Major Dhyan Chand, is often regarded as the greatest player in the history of the the sport of Hockey. He was an Indian Hockey player and was widely known for his goal scoring feats. He won three Olympic Gold Medals in 1928, 1932 and 1936, at a time when India was dominating the Olympics in field hockey.

He rose to fame at the young age of 20, when was selected to tour New Zealand while playing for the Army. His excellent performance in the tour kickstarted his career. In 1928, India made their debut in hockey at the Amsterdam Olympics. Under Major Dhyan Chand‘s leadership, the Indian team won the gold medal. In 1932, Dhyan Chand scored 12 goals at the Los Angeles Olympics, winning against the host 24-1.

Dhyan Chand achieved great feats in the 1936 Olympics

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Major Dhyan Chand

In the 1936 Olympic Games, India had a rocky start, as they lost against in their warm up match against the hosts, Germany. After making a few changes to the roster however, the team was unstoppable. In the group stage, India won easily against Japan (9-0), USA (7-0) and Hungary (4-0). France suffered a heavy blow by the Indians in the semi finals, with the latter winning 10-1.

The finals had a lot at stake, with India going up against Germany, to hopefully avenge the warm-up match against them. The much anticipated final match was attended by Adolf Hitler himself, to support their ‘racially superior Aryan team’ against defending champions India. The Germans employed a very rough strategy, with Dhyan Chand even losing a tooth in a tackle.

However, the Indian team refused to give in, and improvised their technique, unleashing wrath on the Germans. The Indian Team ended up winning the monumental match 8-1, with India conceding their only goal in Olympics against Germany.

“It was Dada Dhyanchand, called the wizard of hockey, who in 1936 Berlin Olympics had scored six goals against Germans as India had won 8-1. Hitler had saluted Dada Dhyanchand as he offered him to join the German Army,” former India hockey coach Saiyed Ali Sibtain Naqvi told IANS during an interview.

Hitler was infuriated with the result of the match- but he was impressed by the Major’s game

Major Dhyan Chand and Hitler
Major Dhyan Chand and Hitler

Hitler was furious at the result of the match, and reportedly left the stadium in frustration even before the match was over. He however came back to present the medals at the award ceremony.

The next day was a surprising one, as Major Dhyan Chand received a message from the Fuhrer himself, asking him for a meeting. Dhyan Chand was worried hearing this since Hitler was reportedly known to shoot people in his own chambers, and seeing as India had won the match yesterday, it was a matter of concern.

Hitler invited Dhyan Chand to his private box, where he asked the Major what he did in India, to which Dhyan Chand explained that he worked in the Indian Army. It is said that Hitler then offered Dhyan Chand a high rank in the German Army, because of his splendid performance in the Olympic finals. Dhyan Chand declined the offer, stating that his roots and family were in India, making it difficult to relocate anywhere else. The Fuhrer was understanding of his position and the meeting ended with Dhyan Chand leaving.

Dhyan Chand was an exceptional yet extremely humble man. In 1956, Dhyan Chand retired from the Army as a Major. He passed away on 3 December 1979 in Delhi. Dhyan Chand was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian honor in 1956.

Even years after his demise, Major Dhyan Chand’s contribution and excellence continue to be remembered. His birthday, 29th August is celebrated as National Sports Day.

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