Chandigarh, May 25 (IANS) Legendary hockey player Balbir Singh Senior, who passed away on Monday morning at a private hospital, was cremated with full state honours at the Sector 25 electrical crematorium.
He was 96 and was in a critical condition for nearly a fortnight. Balbir Senior, considered to be one of the finest forwards, was undergoing treatment at Fortis Mohali and was in a “semi-comatose condition”. He was hospitalised on May 8 with high fever and breathing trouble. But, his COVID-19 test had come negative.
He was battling several age-related health problems for over two weeks. He breathed his last at 6:17 a.m., his family said. The three-time Olympic gold medallist is survived by three sons and a daughter.
Meanwhile, Punjab Sports Minister Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi demanded Bharat Ratna for Balbir Senior.
“Today, we have not only lost our greatest iconic player but we have also lost ‘our guiding light’. He remained the greatest fan of the sport and was always there when we needed his advice. Hockey has lost its shining star and everyone belonging to sports arena is pained by this shocking news,” the minister said.
Balbir Senior was the most decorated athlete in Indian sports history with Olympic medals in 1948, 1952 and 1956 Summer Games. He coached the Indian team which won the bronze medal at the 1971 World Cup and was manager of the Indian team that won the gold medal at the 1975 World Cup.
He had scored five goals in India’s 6-1 victory over the Netherlands in the gold medal match of the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Under his captaincy, India scored 38 goals and conceded none on its way to the gold medal in 1956 Melbourne Olympics.