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DNA: Gold Trailer: Independent India first Olympic (6/27/2018)
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DNA: Gold Trailer: Independent India's first Olympic win - Real story of 1948 hockey team that inspired Akshay Kumar's film

Pawas Kumar

The trailer for Akshay Kumar's upcoming film 'Gold' released couple of days ago. According to reports, the film is based on the 1948 hockey team that won Independent India's first Olympic gold medal.

While the trailer says that the reel-story is 'inspired by true events', the real story of the 1948 team is dramatic enough.

The 1948 London Olympics were being held after the conclusion of the World War II and a gap of 12 years. The world war and its impact has changed the world a lot.

India: Independent but Divided

India were the defending champions after winning the hockey gold medal in 1936 Berlin Olympics. However, this was the first time they were taking part in the event as an independent nation.

However, the independence has come at a cost and the country was reeling at the effect of the partition. With so much killing and rioting going on, many were against India participating in the Olympics.

It was also a wonder that India managed to field a team for the 1948 Olympics. India lost a rich recruiting ground for hockey talent as many Anglo-Indians and Muslims have left.

The captain of the Pakistan hockey team in the 1948 Olympics was AIS Dara. He had represented India in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.

The 1948 Hockey Team

The Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) worked overtime to put together a team that represented a new generation of players led by Kishan Lal. The of the Railways. The team included the likes of Leslie Claudius, Kunwar Digvijay Singh ‘Babu’ and Balbir Singh, who will go on to become legends in their own right.

Indian team: Kishan Lal (captain), Ranganathan Francis, Leo Pinto, Walter D’Souza, Tarlochan Singh Bawa, Akhtar Hussain, Randhir Singh Gentle, Kunwar Digvijay Singh ‘Babu’, Keshav Dutt, Amir Kumar, Maxie Vaz, Leslie Claudius, Balbir Singh, Patrick Jansen, Latifur Rehman, Lawrie Fernandes, Gerald Glacken, Reginald Rodrigues, Grahanandan Singh, Jaswant Singh Rajput.

The team was managed by AC Chatterjee who was instrumental in bringing the team together. It seems that Akshay Kumar's character is inspired by Chatterjee.

India at Olympics

India beat Austria 8-0 in their first match. India followed up this victory by defeating Argentina 9-1, Spain 2-0, and Holland 2-1 to enter the finals.

Patrick Jensen was the hero of India's win against Austria with 4 goals while KD Singh 'Babu' scored two goals. Kishan Lal and Reginald Rodriques scored one goal each.

Balbir Singh starred in India’s win against Argentina by scoring six goals. Jensen also scored two more goals while Lal added one.

However, Balbir was dropped for the next two games. India struggled to beat Spain 2-0 (quarterfinals) and Holland 2-1 (semifinals). It was said that Balbir’s replacements, Nandy (Grahanandan) Singh and Gerry Glacken, were played so they can also get medals.

“Before the match, (Reginald) Rodriques took off Balbir’s shirt and gave it to another centre-forward (Gerald) Glacken. The rule was only those who had taken the field would be eligible for medals and Glacken had not got a game yet,” Leslie Claudius would tell The Telegraph years later.

The Finals

India were keeping an eye out for Pakistan with some of their ex-teammates in the side. It looked like the two teams may meet in the final.

However, it was not meant to be. Ironically, it was Britain who defeated Pakistan in the semifinal to book a final showdown with India.

The ground conditions for the final that was played immediately after the Pakistan-Holland bronze medal game, were not very good.

So, it was on such a pitch, India met their former colonisers Britain in an Olympic hockey final. The date was September 12, 1948, at Wembley grounds.

Balbir, returning to the side, sent India on their way with a goal early in the match and another just before half-time. Jensen and Trilochan Singh scored one apiece on resumption as Independent India retained their hockey crown.

No prize money

The team was made up of amateur players so they did not get any money for winning the medal. However, the team was sent on a goodwill tour of the European mainland - visiting France, Czechoslavakia and Switzerland.

After the victory, V. K. Krishna Menon, free India's first High Commissioner to England, gave an official reception at India House.

The team returned by ship to Bombay, where a red carpet welcome was given to the team. The victory celebrations culminated in Delhi, where President Rajendra Prasad and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru attended a match involving the Olympic team at the jam packed National Stadium.

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