New Delhi: Hockey India has expressed condolences on the sad demise of legendary player Balbir Singh Sr who breathed his last Monday morning in Mohali. The triple Olympic Champion and World Cup-winning team manager had been battling for life since May 8 when he was hospitalised.
“Today, we have not only lost our greatest hockey legend but we have also lost ‘our guiding light’. While his achievements in post-independent era have been well-documented, Balbir Sr remained the greatest fan of the sport and was always there when we needed his advice. Hockey has lost its brightest star and everyone at Hockey India is pained by this news,” said Hockey India President Mohd Mushtaque Ahmad.
He further said: “Balbir Singh Sr’s exemplary achievements, his passion for the sport, his life as an icon of the game will remain an example for generations to come. On behalf of the federation, I express my deepest condolences to his family.”
He was the most decorated athlete in Indian sports history with Olympic medals in 1948, 1952 and 1956 Summer Games. He coached the Indian team which won the bronze medal at the 1971 World Cup and was manager of the Indian team that won the gold medal at the 1975 World Cup.
He had scored five goals in India’s 6-1 victory over the Netherlands in the gold medal match of the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Under his captaincy, India scored 38 goals and conceded none on its way to the gold medal in 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
Beating England 4-0 in their own backyard during the final of the 1948 Olympic Games as an independent nation was Balbir Sr’s ‘greatest moment’.
Hockey India’s Secretary General Rajinder Singh too expressed his condolence. “Balbir Sr’s achievements in hockey cannot be emulated. It is difficult to mention him in past-tense because for us he was always there.”
“One could call on him for advice at anytime, his spirit and adulation for the game will be missed. I am sure even in his absence, his life as a hockey legend will inspire many generations,” Singh added.
For Balbir Sr’s stellar contribution to the game, Balbir Sr was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian honour in 1957 and was conferred with the Major Dhyan Chand Life Time Achievement Award by Hockey India in 2014.
He also became the only Asian male and only Indian among 16 athletes to be chosen as “Iconic Olympians” by the International Olympic Committee across the modern Olympics’ history.