A day before hockey legend Dhyan Chand’s 111th birth anniversary, a group of former Indian hockey players gathered at New Delhi on Sunday to demand Bharat Ratna for the legend. Former Indian captain Zafar Iqbal said that “the Wizard” deserved the award before anyone else.
The demand to award Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour, to Dhyan Chand has been there ever since sports became a part of the list of eligible categories for the award in 2011. With India celebrating the legend’s 111th birth anniversary today as National Sports Day, former hockey stars like Ashok Kumar, Zafar Iqbal, Ajitpal Singh, MK Kaushik, AB Subbaiah, Mohammed Riaz, Ashish Ballal, Mukesh Kumar, and Dilip Tirkey gathered at the Jantar Mantar in Delhi to once again demand the award for the hockey legend.
"Look at how much we are struggling to win medals in the Olympics now. This is a man who won three gold (1928, 1932 and 1936 Olympics) and yet isn't getting the recognition he deserves. I feel that there may be some political reason behind this," Tirkey, who was wearing a white T-shirt that had the Major's face printed on the front, told TOI.
Former Indian captain Zafar Iqbal said that even the Prime Minister had supported their cause back in 2014.
“In 2014 also PM Modi had supported our cause but it hasn't worked out so far. Dhyan Chand is at par with Don Bradman in cricket, Mohd. Ali in boxing and Pele in football. Even players from other sports agree he deserved the Bharat Ratna before anyone else. We wish the government would take steps to do so,” Zafar Iqbal said, reported Hindu.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also praised “the Wizard” in his “Mann Ki Baat” address on Sunday, and called him an example of true sportsman spirit and patriotism.
"Major Dhyan Chand was a live example of true sportsman spirit and patriotism. He helped India in securing gold medals in Hockey in three Olympic games in 1928, 1932 and 1936," the Prime Minister said.
"Great cricket player Don Bradman had said that Dhyan Chand scores goals like runs," Modi added.
Dhyan Chand, who is one of the greatest sportsmen the country has ever produced, guided India to three Olympic golds during his illustrious career. He brought India
Back in 2013, the then Sports Minister, Jitendra Singh, had recommended Dhyan Chand's name for the award. He wrote, "Late Major Dhyan Chand is the most deserving sportsperson for Bharat Ratna, as he fulfils the criteria of exceptional service performance of highest order in the field of sports which made the country proud. It was for his amazing performance that he was nicknamed 'hockey wizard'", in a letter to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. However, the PMO decided to award the honour to Sachin Tendulkar and Scientist CNR Rao that year.