Dwelling Upon Dhyan Chand, National Sports Day and the Importance of Sports in India

I still remember the speech of one of our chief guests at an Annual Day function when I was in high school. He walked to the podium, looked at the audience and asked, “Do you know who scored the State First Rank in the Higher Secondary School Leaving Examinations last year?”. The audience did not respond. A few seconds later he asked, “Do you know who is Sachin Tendulkar?”. The response was obvious. Even as the world remembers hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand on what could have been his 111th birthday today, the fact that he has not been awarded the Bharat Ratna by the Indian Government has infuriated many hockey legends. While the nation celebrates National Sports Day, it is sad to say that our sportspersons are still not getting the attention they deserve, cricket being an exception here.

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Earlier today, India’s most renowned sand artist, Sudarsan Pattnaik, tweeted an image of his SandArt demanding a Bharat Ratna award for the hockey hero. Many sports personalities are also demanding the same, saying that it is a disappointment that the government failed to confer the award on Dhyan Chand.

An Award in His Name, but No Award for Him

Dhyan Chand helped India win three consecutive gold medals in the 1928, 1932 and 1936 Olympics. It was that period of time when India was still under the British rule and considered to be a very under-developed nation. But Dhyan Chand defied all those myths and made heads turn. During one of his matches, Chand was not able to score a goal even after several attempts. He then argued with the referee and asked him to check the measurement of the goal posts. To everyone’s astonishment, the measurements were found to be inaccurate according to international standards.

Even after the Olympics, Chand continued to contribute to the development of hockey. The Dhyan Chand Award is presented by the government again as the highest award for lifetime achievement in sports and games. However, the irony is that though there is an award named after this sporting legend, he never received the Bharat Ratna from the government.

Even as India celebrates its National Sports Day today, tweets with the hashtag #bharatratnafordhyanchand are increasing in number. But does Dhyan Chand really deserve a Bharat Ratna?

Arguments Over Dhyan Chand’s Bharat Ratna Award

In many recent cases, Bharat Ratna awards have been conferred on people posthumously (i.e.) after their death. The award was established to recognize the highest civilian honor in India. Earlier, there were arguments against Sachin Tendulkar and a few other sports personalities receiving the awards. Many writers and journalists argued that it had become an honor that was limited to celebrities and that it lost its original purpose.

But considering the recent history of Bharat Ratna awards, Dhyan Chand should definitely not be denied the privilege because he contributed a lot to India through hockey and inspired many other hockey players even after his retirement.

Earlier, it was arguable that Dhyan Chand was not given the Bharat Ratna since no other sports person had received it; there was the Khel Ratna instead. However, the fact that Sachin Tendulkar was the first sportsperson to receive the award in 2013 is reason enough to question why Dhyan Chand has not been awarded the honor yet.

Some of Dhyan Chand’s supporters, who are also ex-hockey players, believe that he must have been awarded the Bharat Ratna even before Sachin Tendulkar. Though it cannot be denied that Dhyan Chand was a sporting legend, the Bharat Ratna controversy remains in the question.

It is also worth noting that all awards conferred by the government will definitely have political influence, especially in India.

The Importance of Sports in India

It was clearly evident from the Rio Olympics 2016, that the Indian athletes performed well and won a few medals despite being deprived of proper facilities from the government. Though they were welcomed back with many felicitation ceremonies and awards, this amount could have been spent on providing the basic amenities for athletes to train and perform well in their respective fields.

Despite the government or political bodies refusing to give Dhyan Chand the appreciation he deserves, one thing remains evident. A legend is always a legend and Dhyan Chand was no exception.

But the government is not always to blame; we have to take part of the blame on ourselves too. National Sports Day is observed every year in order to make the citizens of this nation realize the importance of sports. Sadly, in today’s educational system, children are forced to give more preference to academics rather than sports.

It is the right of every child to follow his/her dream and neither should parents, teacher nor the educational institution in which the child studies deny the child’s access to sports. So, let us pledge to develop a nation with more sportspersons while we remember Dhyan Chand on this National Sports Day.