Indian hockey veteran Balbir Singh Sr. passed away. He was 96 years old. After suffering from health related problems for more than two weeks, he breathed his last in the hospital on Monday.
Abhijit Singh, director of Fortis Hospital Mohali, said that he was admitted here on 8 May. He died at around 6:30 am on Monday morning. His grandson Kabir later confirmed, ‘Nanaji passed away this morning.’ Balbir Singh Sr. played a key role in winning India’s gold medals at the London (1948), Helsinki (1952) and Melbourne (1956) Olympics.
Balbir Singh Sr. was in a semi-conscious state from May 18 and a blood clot had frozen in his brain. He was admitted to hospital after pneumonia and high fever in his lungs. Balbir, one of the greatest sportspersons of the country, was among the 16 greatest Olympians in modern Olympic history selected by the International Olympic Committee.
Contribution in Indian Hockey
He led the Indian contingent at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and became the flag bearer. India scored a total of 13 goals at the Helsinki Olympics, 9 of which came off Balbir’s stick alone. It also included a hat-trick against Great Britain. He scored 5 goals against the Netherlands in the final. Which is still a record in the Olympic field hockey final. India won the match 6–1.
Balbir Singh Sr. was made the captain of India at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. The Government of India honored him with the Padma Shri in 1957. He was the manager of the 1975 World Cup winning team. Ajit Pal Singh was captaining this team. In January last year, Balbir Singh Sr. was discharged from PGIMER after spending 108 days. He was undergoing pneumonia treatment in this hospital.
His son is in Canada and he lived in Chandigarh with his daughter Sushbir and granddaughter Kabir Singh Bhomia. Balbir Sr. Azad, who is said to be equivalent to Major Dhyanchand in terms of skill, was one of the biggest players of India. He and Dhyanchand may never have played together, but there were such precious gemstones of Indian hockey that inspired the entire generation.
There has been a demand for giving Bharat Ratna to Balbir, born in 1924 in Haripur Khalsa village of Punjab. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has even written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for this.