Balbir Singh — Balbir Singh Dosanjh, popularly known as Balbir Singh Senior has been a former Indian Hockey player who has represented the nation in 3 Olympic Games getting his team a Gold Medal victory at all the 3 events and has also been the Coach of the Indian Hockey team for some time. He is named Balbir Singh Sr. in order to identify him from other 5 other persons with the same name which have played for the Indian Hockey team. He, however was the first Balbir Singh the Indian Hockey saw, hence referred to as Senior.
He was born on the 19th of October 1924 at Haripur Khalsa, Punjab and received his education at Dev Samag High School Moga, D M College and Khalsa Colege Amritsar. Balbir started playing Hockey at an early age, and was deeply inspired by the Berlin Olympics 1936 Gold Medal winner Indian Hockey team. He played for Khalsa College Hockey team, and the Coach Harbail Singh taught him the basics of the game. Further, he moved to Punjab University and was noticed by Sir John Bennet, the Inspector General of Punjab in British days while playing in a College match during the year 1945. Bennet ordered him to play for the Punjab Police team, but Balbir was reluctant as his father had been tortured and sentenced by the British Police. Unwilling to play for the Police team, he fled away to Delhi but was caught back by the Police as Bennet didn’t want to lose such a good player. He was arrested and brought back to play for the Punjab Police, and this time Balbir rose to the heights of success and glory that people even remember today. He represented the team of Undivided Punjab led by Col. AIS Dara that won the National Hockey in 1947.
He made his Olympics debut in the London Olympics 1948 in the second match played against Argentina. India won the match by 9-1, and Balbir scored 6 out of them, including a hat-trick. In the final match played against Britain, India beat the opponent by 4-0, and Balbir had scored 2 goals in the match. At the Helsinki Olympics 1952, Balbir was named the Vice-Captain of the Indian squad, with K.D. Singh Babu being the Captain. In the Semi-Final match against Britain Balbir scored all the 3 goals scored by India, and the team won by 3-1. In the Final match against Holland, the Indian team won by 6-1 to lift the Gold Medal again, and Balbir had contributed 5 goals out of them, including a hat-trick. At the Helsinki Olympics, he had scored a total number of 9 goals.
Balbir was the Captain of the Indian Hockey team at the Melbourne Olympics 1956, and scored 5 goals in the opening match itself played against Afghanistan. Unfortunately, he got injured during the match and couldn’t play before the Semi-Final and Final matches. In the Final match, the Indian team saved its Gold Medal beating Pakistan marginally by 1-0.
He represented the Indian Hockey team at Tokyo Asian Games 1958 and Jakarta Asian Games 1962. Balbir also served as the Coach of the Indian Hockey team for the World Cup Hockey 1971, wherein the team managed to grab a Silver Medal. Further, he was named the Manager of the Indian team participating at the World Cup Hockey 1975.
Awards and Achievements
Balbir Singh Senior was the first Sports personality to be honored with the Padma Shri award in the year 1957. He lit the Sacred Flame at the Asian Games 1982 held at New Delhi. In the year 2006 he was named the Best Sikh Hockey Player of All Times. Also, in a poll conducted in the year 1982 he was adjudged to be the Player of the Century.
- Won three gold medals teams in the 1948, 1952 and 1956 Olympic Games
- Silver Medal at the Asian Games 1958 as well as the Asian Games 1962
- First hockey player to be awarded the Padma Shri