Dhyan Chand is regarded by many as the greatest hockey player to have ever graced the game. Known as the ‘Wizard of Hockey’, for his dribbling and ball control, he guided India to three Olympic gold medals in 1928, 1932 and 1936.
He has over 400 international goals to his name and after watching him play cricket legend Sir Don Bradman stated, "He scores goals like runs in cricket.”
But this legendary player led a very simple life until his death in 1979 at the age of 74. He joined the Indian army at 17 but due to his superlative performance on the hockey pitch during the New Zealand tour, he was promoted to the rank of Lance Naik on his return to India.
Former India skipper Zafar Iqbal had the good fortune of meeting with Chand as they used to stay at the same colony in Vasant Vihar, New Delhi. He said that the Padma Bhushan winner would always strive for excellence rather than running after money.
"He was the simplest man I would say in sporting history. He never asked for any money or boast about himself. We often chatted." - Zafar Iqbal to IANS
Iqbal went on to narrate an incident that would emphasize how humble and down to earth Chand was even after winning so many accolades.
"In 1978, we travelled with him from Delhi to Jhansi. Ashok (Dhyan Chand's son) was also there. We had to play a match there. We got into a third class (general compartment) and it was fully packed. There was no place to sit. Dhyan Chand, however, kept standing and didn't say anything to anyone," he revealed.
"After some time, we requested a person to offer us a place to sit. Such was his simplicity. We didn't have enough money to travel by first class. But Dhyan Chand never created any fuss."
Iqbal believes that Chand's legacy in hockey cannot be quantified.
"His contribution to the country in the field of hockey is immense and something which we are very proud of. He is recognised by his game and not by awards," he mentioned.