12 August 1948 : Independent India’s First Olympic Gold

The Olympics of 1948 held in England were monumental for two reasons. First it were held after a hiatus of 12 years, courtesy the gruesome World War II. Second, post World War II, many new countries were born and some including India were the newly independent ones.

India had been sending it’s teams into Olympics from 1920 but had to sing ‘God Save the King’ as India was England’s colony. It was the first time in 1948, one year after independence from the Britishers, that our contingent hoisted the tricolour at the Wembley stadium in England at the opening ceremony.

India had won 3 Olympic Golds in a row for hockey before independence. In 1948 too India were very much the favourites but the greats of the pre-war  including Dhyan Chand had retired. It was captained by Kishan Lal with the brilliant K.D. Singh as vice-captain.

The Indian hockey team included 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 and Jaswant Singh Rajput.

India defeated Austria in the first league game by a huge margin of 8-0. KD Singh scored 2, Patrick Jensen 4, Kishan Lal 1 and Reginald Rodrigues scored 1 goal. In the second game India beat Argentina by 9-1. The great Balbir Singh scored 6 goals, Patrick Jansen 2 and Kishan Lal put one in the net.

In the Quarterfinals, It was India versus Spain. India beat Spain by 2-0, Tarlochan Singh scored 1 and KD Singh scored the other goal. The men in blue were up against Holland in the Semi-finals, India managed to defeat them by 2-1. Gerald Glacken scored 1 goal and KD Singh scored the second.

It could have been an India – Pakistan final. But, England defeated Pakistan in the Semi-finals and as a result, the once Indian rulers- Britain were up against it’s own colony an year ago.

It was 12 August. 10,000 spectators had gathered at the Wembley Stadium. “Neither the persistent wet weather nor a muddy ground could stop the Indian team. Despite the heavy, muddy turf and the light rain the Indians outclassed the British team with their superb ball control, accurate passing and intelligent positional play.” reported TOI.

India created history 70 years ago on 12 August by beating Britain who ruled us for over 150 years by a margin of 4-0. Balbir Singh scored 2 goals and Patrick Jensen and Tarlochan Singh scored a piece each.

The date 12 August 1948 is written in gold in independent India’s shinning history.