Kolkata, June 24 (IANS) Olympic gold medallist and former India captain Gurbux Singh feels hockey should be ‘immediately’ given National Game status and the legendary Dhyan Chand conferred a much-delayed Bharat Ratna.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik stirred up a hornet’s nest after he wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to officially name hockey the National Game recently.
Odisha will host this year’s hockey World Cup and in a first such deal, the state will also sponsor the national teams.
“It was a national sport but it wasn’t recognised by the Government of India. But now there is a demand and it should be,” Gurbux told IANS on the sidelines of 25th annual Bharat Nirman awards where he was conferred with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
“But then you’ll find lot of people will go for cricket and other games. But I think hockey is definitely the pioneer in getting honour to the country from 1928. And it should be recognised as a national game.
“I hope and pray that this is done immediately,” said Gurbux, who led India to the 1966 Asian Games gold.
Like many other sports, hockey was introduced to India by the British colonialists.
Patnaik’s letter has opened a debate over whether hockey should be notified as the National Game, or indigenous Indian sports like kabaddi or kho-kho given the honour.
The Indian hockey team has won eight gold medals – the last of which was at the 1980 Moscow Games – and one silver and two bronze medals at the Olympics.
But results in the recent past, including at the Olympics and World Championships, have been below-par.
Gurbux also demanded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, for the late Dhyan Chand who helped India bag three gold medals at the Olympics (1928, 1932 and 1936).
“It’s unfortunate. What to do? I do not know the reason why it’s not being done. It is high time,” said Gurbux who in his autobiography “My Golden Days”, has shed fresh light on the hockey wizard, whose birth anniversary is celebrated as the National Sports Day.
“Earlier, government gave (Bharat Ratna) to (Sachin) Tendulkar, okay he deserves but I think Dhyan Chand also deserves it better. It should be done now. Whatever wrong has been done to hockey and Dhyan Chand should be rectified immediately,” he added.
During the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule in 2013, the sports ministry had chosen Dhyan Chand over cricketing great Tendulkar for the honour.
But eventually, the cricket icon became the first sportsperson to receive the award, just hours after he had ended his illustrious international career.