Who was the first Olympic Hockey Gold winning Indian captain?

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | January 13, 2024 IST

Jaipal Singh Munda

Ranchi, Jan 13: Are you a diehard hockey fan? Are you confident of your knowledge about Indian hockey?

Can you instantly (without taking any outside help) say, who was the first hockey captain of India, who won the first of the country's eight gold medals in the Olympics?

Difficult? Not easy definitely. 

But, many hockey lovers in Jharkhand have not forgotten him, nor his contributions to the hockey world.

Now, to verify that, we have to get ourselves involved in the developments in Jharkhand capital Ranchi, where the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers are in progress these days.

On Saturday, as players from the women's teams of World No.5 Germany and South American hopefuls Chile lined up for the opening match of the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers, one was not sure how many of them were aware of the significance of hosting the event at the Marang GomkeJaipal Singh Astro Turf Stadium here.

It was not clear how many of the 22 players on the field and their teammates on the bench were familiar with the name of Jaipal Singh Munda after whom the stadium is named.

For those who don't know, Jaipal Singh Munda was the first hockey captain of India who won the first of the country's eight gold medals in the Olympics. Studying in England at that time, Jaipal Singh was named captain of the Indian team for the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam of which hockey wizard Dhyan Chand was an integral part.

However, Jaipal Singh, lovingly called Marang Gomke, Supreme Leader, by the people of Jharkhand for his work in the upliftment of the local Adivasi populace as a top political leader of the region in British India, withdrew from the Indian team after leading it for three matches in Amsterdam over a difference of opinion with some of the British officials associated with the 1928 team. He did not play for India ever after that even though he played hockey for Mohun Bagan Club and Bengal Hockey Association in Calcutta upon returning from Oxford after completing his studies

In his autobiography Goal!, the legendary Dhyan Chand had described Jaipal Singh as a "big name in hockey" at that time. He wrote that "Jaipal Singh's intimate knowledge of English players and ground conditions was of great help to us" when the team stayed in London for four weeks to get ready for the Olympics.

"We found him to be an exceedingly popular man in England's hockey world. A most affable man, he was a great hit in social circles too, as I found out in the few social gatherings I attended. We considered ourselves most fortunate in having such a man as our skipper," wrote Dhyan Chand.

Jaipal Singh, who was born on January 3, 1903, in a remote Takra Pahantoli in the Khunti district of modern-day Jharkhand, had to forego a chance of becoming an ICS officer as he decided to lead the Indian team at the 1928 Olympic Games. Jaipal, a probationary at the ICS Academy, was denied leave to play in Amsterdam in 1928 but still went on to captain the Indian team. He eventually quit his probation as he was asked to spend an extra year for that. He was fine 150 pounds for that, a big amount in that period, but left England without paying that too.

However, his sacrifice went in vain as he could continue till the end and was also penalised by Oxford University for going to Amsterdam without leave.

Though Dhyan Chand wrote that he was not aware of the reason why Jaipal Singh pulled out of the 1928 Olympic Games, he did reveal that he had heard that the reputed full-back had a clash with some of the team officials.

"It is still a mystery to me why Jaipal Singh, after ably captaining us in England, and in two or three matches in the Olympic Games, suddenly left us. I have heard many stories, but so far I have not had the truth," the Hockey Wizard wrote in his autobiography well after his retirement.

Dhyan Chand, who devoted a couple of chapters to the first Olympic team describing the selection process in detail, noted there was a conflict at the top of the team hierarchy.

"I could see from the very start of our stay in England that there was a conflict at the top level. Although A. B. Rossier was our manager, two ex-Indian Army men, Major Ricketts and Colonel Bruce Turnbull, more or less bossed Rossier. I could sense that our manager Rosser was not quite happy.

"Whether this conflict at the top level had anything to do with Jaipal Singh's refusal to captain us later is a question for others to answer. Some said communal and racial issues were involved. Whatever the reason was, the fact remains that Jaipal Singh... by his academic qualification and social status and knowledge of the game in those parts of the world was eminently suited to lead us, could not do so right till the end," wrote Dhyan Chand.

A few years after his intriguing withdrawal from the 1928 Olympic Games, Jaipal Singh joined politics and became the Supreme Leader of the region, still respected by people and has many sports venues and government schemes named after him. The astro turf stadium in the Morabadi area of Ranchi, which was renovated and refurbished for the National Games in Jharkhand, was named after him in 2013, There is another stadium named after him at Ahirtoli, around 3 km from the hockey venue, the Jaipal Singh Stadium that hosts football matches.

"The government of Chief Minister Hemant Soren has decided to name the sports facilities to honour sports legends. The government has set up many important schemes too to honour sportspersons of yesteryears," informed Manoj Kumar Singh, vice-president of Jharkhand Hockey Association.

In his role as a politician, Jaipal Singh was a member of the Constituent Assembly that decided India's Constitution and was a member of three committees, bringing the sensibility of a "canvas" into the top echelons of the Indian political system for decades. He raised the issues related to tribals from the region and acted as their voice in the undivided state of West Bengal and then Bihar championing the cause of the poor.

Since then, Jharkhand, which earned statehood in 2000, has produced star players like Sylvanus Dung Dung, Michael Kindo, Sumrai Tete, and siblings Bimal and Asunta Lakra and currently, two players from the state— Salima Tete and Nikki Pradhan—are in the Indian women’s team getting playing, Jaipal Singh is still remembered.

Though his role as a hockey player and India's first captain at the Olympic Games is overshadowed by his gigantic political persona, today's Jharkhand cherishes both his roles -- as Supreme Leader of the people and a sportsperson. The Marang Gomke Astro Turf Stadium in Ranchi is a testament to that love and respect. (With IANS support)

 

    Tags
  • Hockey India
  • Olympic Champion
  • FIH Hockey
  • FIH Hockey Olympics Qualifiers
  • Jaipal Singh Munda

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