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Hockey Year Book 2008
 

Roop Singh Centenary

1908 - 2008

Date of Birth: September 8, 1908. Place: Jubbulpore, India. Domicile: Sipri Bazar, Jhansi City, Country: India. Nationality: British subject by birth.

This was how the details the identity card No. 3770, dated 25.1.1932, issued by the organisers of the Xth Olympiad in Los Angeles, read.

‘The British subject by birth’ is Roop Singh, the greatest hockey player India
produced. His exploits, patented backhand forward passes, those stylish goals
which mesmerised men – and more women — of his times were hardly recognised
even when he was alive. That the nation would let his 100th birth anniversary go
unnoticed, therefore, is hardly surprising. Hardly was there any mention in
newspapers and television channels about the historical occasion.

Seventy-two years ago, on August 15 at the Berlin Olympics, under a blazing
sun, the famed Indians failed to dazzle against Germany, wilting under the crowd
pressure. Defending champions and prolific scorers, India could not net one till
the 32nd minute. At this stage, the jewel from Jhansi stepped in. Forgoing for
once the habit of setting up goals for others, he scored gem of a goal to break the
deadlock. Observed his teammate MN Masud in his memoirs: Roop scored it by
the help of “placing” from a pass of Jaffar. India need a goal and the honour went
to Roop to supply that need of his country’.

Reinvigorated, India, led by Roop’s elder brother Dhyan Chand, went on to add
another seven in the next half. Thus, India went on to make first of its Olympic
hat-trick. For those who mattered, the tally of goals and captaincy meant more
with the result that the crucial goalscorer in Roop Singh never got the credit due
to him.

This inside-left maintained a low profile and rarely interacted on tour; all apparently
to show humility to his elder brother. This despite his straight-talking, famous
sibling often making this clear: “Roop is a better player than me”. When Dhyan
Chand repeatedly said this in Ceylon, the first stop on way to the Los Angeles
Olympics, reporters first refused to believe him. And then, after a few matches
they heaped paeans on the younger brother.

Hardly the one to prop up someone undeserving, Dhyan Chand didn’t say this for
effect. At the Los Angeles Olympics one month later, Dhyan Chand’s words were
vindicated when the scorecard read: India’s total goals: 35; Roop Singh: 15
Dhyan Chand: 11. A newspaper cutting which Roop kept in his proud custody till
his death shows 12 goals against him name in one match – against the States.
This is still a Olympic record – highest number of goals by a player in a match.
Unfortunately for Roop, World War II denied him a third Olympics. Thus he lost the
chance to lead the team, win another gold and garner as much adulation as
everyone else. Captain-obsessed India is yet to bestow a single honour or award...

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Hockey Year book 2008
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