Kenya’s Hockey Olympian, Balbir Singh

by Dil Bahra
31 December 2016

Balbir Singh Sidhu, fondly known as Bali, passed away in Farnborough, Kent, UK on 10 December 2016 aged 84.

‘Balbir' has always been a respected name in hockey. Four Balbirs played for India at Olympic Games and it was at Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games where Balbir Singh Sidhu made his mark playing for Kenya. At these same Games, Balbir Singh Sr. led India to her sixth consecutive Gold medal.

Balbir Singh Sidhu was born in Nairobi, Kenya on 11th December 1931. His parents had emigrated to Kenya in 1927.

He went to India with his parents in 1938 and because of the war which started the following year; he stayed in India for eleven years and studied in Hans Village School in Jagraon; Government School Jagraon, District Ludhiana and Government College, Ludhiana.

He played hockey at School in Jagraon and represented Ludhiana College, Punjab in 1948.

He returned to Kenya in 1949 and played for Sikh Union Nairobi from 1949 to 1952.

He played for Kenya Police from 1952 to 1958 and was a member of Kenya Police Team that won the M R D'Souza Gold Cup in 1955 and 1960.

He represented Kenya at Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games. He was Kenya's vice-captain at their match against England in Nairobi in September 1958.

In September 1966 he emigrated to UK where he played for a short while for Sevenoaks and Beckenham hockey clubs. He retired from hockey thereafter and continued with his other passion, golf.

In April 2005, Balbir was one of 27 Sikh Olympians who paraded at Trafalgar Square in London to support London's bid for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Hilary Fernandes, who represented Kenya at Rome, Tokyo and Mexico City Olympic Games said "I played and trained with Balbir for the 1956 Olympics. He encouraged me a lot and told me not to feel disappointed when I was not selected for the 1956 Olympic team"

"Balbir was not only a strong full back but also a powerful and extremely accurate striker of the ball" remarked Joginder Singh Dhillon, a fellow Melbourne Olympian.

He leaves behind his wife, Harinder and son Hardeep.


Sir Mota Singh QC (1930 - 2016)

by Dil Bahra
17 November 2016

Tributes have been pouring in about this great gentleman and SikhsinHockey.com would like to share some of his hockey contributions.

Whilst he was a top class cricketer, he also played hockey. He was a member of the famous Sikh Union Nairobi Club and was the Club's President when they won the M R D' Souza Gold Cup in 1963. In the above photo, are some of Kenya's legendary hockey Olympians like Avtar Singh Sohal, Jack Simonian and Gursaran Singh Sehmi to name a few.

Dr Joginder Singh Dhillon, who represented Kenya at hockey at the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games said "After passing the Bar final examination at Lincoln's Inn in London in 1955, Mota returned to Kenya in 1956 and started  own practice in Nairobi as a brilliant advocate!
It was then, I had the honour to play hockey along with this equally brilliant sportsman,who excelled at Hockey and Cricket, representing Sikh union Nairobi"

I have known Sir Mota, both professionally and socially since the mid 70s and knew of his interest in Cricket and Hockey.

When Sikh Union South London Club was formed in 1984, the Club had the honour of making him the Patron of the Club. He supported the Club and regularly attended the Club functions.

In the brochure for the Club's Far East Tour in 1986 he wrote "Sikhs take Hockey just like a duck takes to water. They have achieved great eminence on the hockey field; their nimble footwork and agility with the hockey stick are a source of fascination; they have been seen representing the countries where they have made their homes at the Olympic Games and other international tournaments, and have, thereby, helped to bring about that understanding among nationals of various countries that only a medium such as sports can do."

I had the privilege of being in his company for a whole week on an official tour to India in 2004, visiting Amritsar and Delhi. Not a day went by when we didn't talk about hockey. 


Resham Honoured by FIH

by Dil Bahra
12 November 2016

Resham Singh Bains of Kenya has been honoured by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) with their Diploma of Merit. He received the award at a gala dinner yesterday held by hockey's governing body during their bi-annual Congress in Dubai.

He becomes the third Sikh in the world to receive this award. The other two, both Kenyans, to receive this award are Hardev Singh Kular (1995) and Avtar Singh Sohal (2001). Kenya's legendary Hardial Singh Kular had been recognised by the FIH with the Order of Merit back in 1984.

Resham, who was born in Punjab, India, emigrated to Kenya in 1955 at the age of ten.  He graduated from Kenya Polytechnic and played for Railway Gymkhana Nairobi from 1968 - 69 and Sikh Union Nairobi from 1969 to 1978.

He earned his first international cap for Kenya when he was selected to play against Malawi in the East and Central African Hockey Championship in Dar-es- Salaam in 1969. He played at the First Hockey World Cup in Barcelona in 1971 where Kenya finished fourth and at the Munich 1972 Olympic Games.

After retiring from playing international hockey he took up umpiring.  He was awarded his FIH Badge in 1981 and umpired at the 6th Hockey World Cup in Willesden, London in 1986. He also umpired at the Junior World Cup in Kuala Lumpur in 1986.

He was a Committee member of the FIH Umpiring committee from 2003 to 2005, Vice Chairman of African Hockey Federation and an executive Board member of National Olympic Committee of Kenya. He was on the Executive Board of African Hockey Federation from 1984 to 2015 and Chairman of Kenya Hockey Union from 2005 to 2013.


Jasmer Singh – Kenya’s Multi Talented Sportsman (1930 - 2016)

by Dil Bahra
24 September 2016

Kenya's sport has lost one of its most well known and longest serving sports personalities with the passing of Jasmer Singh Grewal on Wednesday.

Jasmer was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1930. His parents had emigrated to Kenya in 1920. He received his pre-primary education in Sri Guru Singh Sabha Boy's School on Race Course Road - it is one of the oldest Sikh Gurdwara in Kenya.

Sports came naturally to Jasmer from a very young age, especially cricket and hockey. He played cricket and hockey for Duke of Gloucester School in Nairobi.

On leaving school he joined the Public Works Department (PWD) and started cricket, hockey and mixed hockey sections there.

His cricket career progressed and he went on to represent the Kenya Asians against Kenya Europeans in the annual fixture at the age of nineteen. He represented Kenya in 1956 at the age of twenty-six and played six internationals for the country.

During this period he also played hockey for Sikh Union Nairobi. He was a member of the team that won the Ujjager Singh Cup in the 1956/57 season.

He was appointed as the Publicity Officer for Kenya Hockey Union in 1964 - at a time when Kenya were ranked one of the top teams in the world.

Jasmer was a very prominent member of Sikh Union Nairobi Club. He was  the Chairman of the club in 1966 - 67 - during the period when the hockey team won the M R D'Souza Gold Cup a record five times in a row. He served on the committees for several years and until a few weeks ago was assisting with the Club's ‘Mahan Hall of Fame'.

He had a distinguished club career playing cricket for the club from 1952-1980.

His contribution to cricket in Kenya was enormous and recognised at the highest level of world cricket. In 1992 he was awarded Honorary Life Membership of the M.C.C., the only Kenyan to achieve that honour. He was also the only Kenyan to be awarded a life time recognition award by the International Cricket Council in 2005.

Jasmer, who was Standard newspaper's hockey correspondent for many years, edited Kenya Hockey Union and Sikh Union Nairobi Brochures for all the major hockey tournaments.

In 2015 Jasmer was inducted into Kenya's Hall of Fame.

His contributions to hockey are equally revealing. Surjit Singh Rihal, Sikh Union's hockey player from 1969 to 1989, who was the national captain from 1973 - 1981 said "When l joined Sikh Union Club in 1969, l noticed two members present at the club seven days a week through the year; one was Hardial Singh Kular and the other was Jasmer Singh Grewal. Such was their attachment to the club. Jasmer never missed any hockey match when Sikh Union or the Kenya team was playing. It was a pleasure to have worked along with him on the Sikh Union management committee for many years."

Sir Mohinder Singh Dhillon paid this Tribute "Jasmer, Affectionately known as Meli touched many lives. As a writer he encouraged and pushed me to be complete my autobiography MY CAMERA, MY LIFE to be launched on 2nd October 2016.  Meli introduced my brother Joginder Dhillon  to hockey by suggesting him to put on goalkeeper pads and come in from sideline. Joginder later represented Kenya in 1956 Olympics.Meli will be missed by us all and a big loss for the family."

Joginder Singh Dhillon, who represented Kenya at Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games said "I am very saddened to hear about passing away of` Dugu` Jasmer [Meli]. A legendary all round sportsman Meli introduced me to hockey in 1948 at the age of 13, which incidently was the lucky number on my back when I participated in Melbourne Olympics in 1956. Actually my first game for RAI was in the goal wearing Bata shoes, protected with old cricket pads. With guidance and encouragement, I was promoted to play on the out field. Eight years from starting hockey in 1948 I was mentored by Meli to be a part of Kenya`s first ever hockey team! in 1956, when I moved to play for Sikh Union under captain Surjit senior. To a large extent I owe that to Jasmer, who would always be remembered as my guru. Meli is an icon! My sincere condolences go the Grewal family."

Jasmer Singh Grewal was born in Nairobi, Kenya on 16 December 1930 and died on 21 September 2016 in Nairobi. He leaves behind his wife, Gurdev, two daughters and a son.


FIH President unveils Sikh Union Nairobi Club’s ‘Mahan Hall of Fame’

by Dil Bahra
20 September 2016

Leandro Negre, President of International Hockey Federation (FIH), accompanied by Seif Ahmed, President of African Hockey Federation and Nahshon Randick, Chairman of Kenya Hockey Union, opened Sikh Union Nairobi Club's ‘Mahan Hall of Fame' in Nairobi yesterday. The Hall of Fame is named after Mahan Singh Sandhu who is regarded as the father of Kenya hockey. He was the coach of Kenya team at their first Olympic outing in Melbourne in 1956.

Negre, a former Spanish international, has long standing friendship with the Club. He played at Mexico Olympic Games in 1968 where Kenya's team included nine Sikh Union players. And at Mexico Olympics, Kenya's coach was Sikh Union's Hardial Singh Kular who later became a Vice President of the FIH. The First World Cup held in Barcelona, Negre's hometown, in 1971 was masterminded by Pablo Negre, Leandro's father. At this World Cup, the Kenya team, captained by Avtar Singh Sohal, included ten Sikh Union players. The team practiced on one of the three hockey pitches at the Negre residence. And it was against the Spanish team that Kenya lost in the semi-final of that World Cup. It is a fitting tribute and honour to the Club, with such a rich history, to have the President of the FIH visit the Club.

Sikh Union Nairobi has a very rich and glorious history, and is rightly so, which is now being highlighted. Three of the Club players went on to captain the Kenya team at Olympic Games and World Cups - Surjeet Singh Deol (Senior) was the captain at Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games; Avtar Singh Sohal captained the team at a record three successive Olympic Games from 1964 to 1972 and the World Cup in Barcelona and Surjit Singh Rihal who captained the team at the second World Cup in Amstelveen in 1973 and was selected as captain for the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games which Kenya boycotted at the eleventh hour.

The premier tournament in East Africa was the M R D'Souza Gold Cup, organised by the Kenya Goan Sports Association. The annual tournament, played during the Easter weekend, from 1952 to 1983, attracted the World's best teams. Sikh Union Nairobi won this Gold Cup 15 times during this period.

SikhsinHockey.com who have comprehensive information on all Sikhs worldwide who have played at Olympic Games and World Cups were delighted to assist with this project and share our vast collection  of Kenya Hockey records. We were able to put Del Mudher, the Club's curator, in contact with past members who live in all parts of the globe. We provided the profiles of all the Olympians & World Cup players and coaches and umpires.

It was Mudher's good fortune to have two of Kenya and Sikh Union Legends to give him all the first-hand information. In Nairobi he had Avtar Singh Sohal who played for Sikh Union from 1957 to 1978 and captained Kenya from 1962 to 1972. And in the UK, he had Surjit Singh Rihal who played for Sikh Union from 1969 to 1989 and was Kenya team's captain from 1973 - 1981. Both Avtar and Surjit are regular contributors to our website.

Mudher worked tirelessly to create such a stunning tribute to the Club's Olympians, World Cup players and Administrators which in years to come will inspire the younger generation.

A comprehensive history of the Club, with photos from 1920s is recorded on our website (http://www.sikhsinhockey.com/). Profiles of all Sikh players and coaches who have played at Olympic Games and World Cups are also on our site.

Whilst our website records the enormous contribution by Sikhs, Sikh Union Nairobi is a multi-cultured Club. Reginald (Reggie) Alexander, who was a Club Patron, was Chef de Mission at the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games. He was the Founder member and Chairman of the Kenya Olympic Association, founded in 1955, and member of the International Olympic Committee from 1960 for 30 years. He accompanied the Kenya Olympic team at five Olympic Games - from 1956 to 1972.

Jack Simonian kept the goal for the Club in the 1960s when they won all the major domestic competitions. Simonian represented Kenya at three successive Olympic Games and was regarded as one of the best goal-keepers in the world. Hilary Fernandes, a triple Olympian, was the captain when Sikh Union won the M R D'Souza Gold Cup in 1968.  His brother, Leo, another Olympian also played for the Club.

Krishan Aggarwal (double Olympian) and Boniface Riga who played at the second World Cup were also among the many non-Sikh players who were members of the very successful Sikh Union Nairobi Club.

Hats off to Del Mudher for his insight in collating the rich history and putting it on display and preserved it for future generations.


Sikh contribution to Rio Olympics

by Dil Bahra
12 August 2016

Eight Sikhs representing two Nations played in the India V Canada Pool B match at the Olympic Hockey Centre at Rio 2016 Olympic Games today.  Akashdeep Singh; Harmanpreet Singh; Manpreet Singh; Ramandeep Singh; Rupinder Singh and Sardar Singh representing  India  and Jagdish Singh Gill and Sukhpal Singh Panesar reprenting Canada.

Both India's goals were scored by Sikhs - Akashdeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh.

This was, however, a far cry from the Munich 1972 Olympic Games where in the pool match between India and Kenya on 2nd September 1972 there were 15 Sikh players on the field at the same time -  10 for Kenya and 5 for India.  Both the teams were captained by Sikhs, Harmik Singh captaining India and Avtar Singh Sohal captaining Kenya. India won that match 3 - 2, all five goals being scored by Sikhs -  Mukhbain Singh scoring two and one for Harmik Singh for India and Davinder Singh Deegan scored two for Kenya.

At Munich Olympics there were 30 Sikh players playing hockey representing India, Kenya, Uganda and Malaysia.

Interestingly, Avtar Singh Sohal, Kenya's Captain at Munich Games, is among the spectators at Rio.

144 Sikhs have played at Olympic Games since 1928 representing nine countries - Canada; Great Britain; Hong Kong; India; Kenya; Malaysia; Singapore; Tanzania and Uganda.

Sikhs have scored 259 goals at Olympic Games.


Sikh Hockey Olympian selected in Canada's Hall of Fame

Field Hockey Canada and its Hall of Fame selection committee has chosen Janet Ellis, Hagurnek "Nick" Sandhu, and the 1964 Canadian Men's Olympic Team to be inducted as its 2016 Hall of Fame Class.

Hagurnek "Nick" Sandhu

After beginning his international career on the Junior level, Sandhu was a member of the Canadian Senior Men's National Team from 1980-1990. During that time, he competed at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. The Canadian men finished tenth at the Los Angeles Games, which still stands as Canada's men's best Olympic performance. Sandhu also was a member of the team that went to the 1990 World Cup of Hockey in Lahore, Pakistan.

The induction class will be honoured in a ceremony at 7:00pm on July 8, 2016 at St. George's School in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Field Hockey Canada press release


Rome Olympian Jagnandan Singh passes away

by Dil Bahra
14 March 2016

Jagnandan Singh, Kenya's Vice Captain at Rome 1960 Olympic Games died in Harrow, London on 9 February 2016.

Born in Ludhiana, Punjab, India in 1929, he was educated at Ambala City Khalsa School, Gujjarwal Government High School, Government College Ludhiana and Punjab University in India.

He emigrated to Kenya in 1945 and played hockey for Sikh Union Nairobi, Kenya Police and Asian Civil Service.

On hearing of his passing, Hilary Fernandes, who played at Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964 and Mexico 1968 Olympic Games said  "Jagy was my Right Half  both with Kenya Police and the Kenya Team for many years. He lived a good life and may his soul Rest In Peace"  

He was a member of Kenya Police Team that won the M R D'Souza Gold Cup in Kenya in 1960.  

He was aged 87.