he was the Wizard with the Hockey Stick, but the magic of his legend seems to have worn off. Time to reinvent the magic.

I wrote this piece in the original Get Sporty Blog on Yahoo, exactly five years ago today. Still remains as relevant although we have made some rapid strides. Worth sharing on this day again.

“TODAY, 29th August is National Sports Day. Doubtless, less people know that in this country than those who know that today also is Michael Jackson’s birthday. And surely, almost none know that its National Sports Day in commemoration of the birth anniversary of Hockey legend Dhyanchand.

‘Chak De’ is in news for all the right reasons nowadays, and when I attended a screening with a friend a few days back, his question of ‘Who’s that?’ when Dhyanchand’s statue appeared on screen took me aback. ‘You don’t know Dhyanchand?’ I asked. Regrettably he didn’t. He was not aware of the man named the “Wizard’ of hockey, responsible for almost single handedly getting India three Olympic golds! A man who they said walked around with a magnet in his hockey stick (they broke it open in Holland to check!), so complete was his control over the ball while dribbling. A man who Hitler held in awe after watching his craft at the Berlin Olympics (1936). A man who was a true international superstar in the league of a Pele or Mohammed Ali. The ignorance of my friend is less due to his lack of knowledge and more owing to his lack of access to it. There aren’t too many things that can propagate the legend (and even the myths surrounding him) crushed as the priorities are under the overriding need for profit, quick money, and the millstone of bureaucracy.

Dhyanchand, they say, was a sight of pure joy on a hockey field with the intellectual capability of reading the game that would rival a chess player. Sights that have become rarer ever since he died of liver cancer in a general ward at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. So, here’s something we can do – encourage our kids, younger siblings and anybody we can influence to take up an alternate sport (and no, video gaming isn’t quite a sport!), incentivize them to find out about the real super heroes and super stars. (The current sports minister Ajay Maken wrote about the same thing in a column in Hindustan Times recently)

And the government, who has had the sense to have a National Sports Day, but not the sense to publicize it and leverage it properly better wake up. Otherwise, in the coming years the only thing we will remember about 29th August would be the ‘King of Pop’ Michael Jackson. And isn’t it he who sang:

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
(If you wanna make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change”

Let’s look into the mirror…and get going!”


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