Five Sikhs in India’s first overseas tour to New Zealand in 1926

The Indian Hockey Pioneers
by Dil Bahra
22 September 2018

The Indian Army Hockey Team toured New Zealand from May to July 1926. The team of 17, led by Captain David Tenant Cowan had four English Officers, one Sikh Officer and twelve Indian soldiers.

Five Sikhs were in this touring team. Jemadar Lal Singh of 2/8 Punjab (Jhelum); Naik Thakur Singh of 1/4 P W O Gurkhas (Bakloh); Lance Naik Dhian Singh of 2/8 Punjab (Jhelum); Sepoy Jaginder Singh of 2/8 Punjab (Jhelum) and Sepoy Sangara Singh of 2/13 Frontier Force Rifles (Delhi).

Sepoy Dhyan Chand of 4/1 Punjab (Jhansi), standing 3rd left in above picture, was also on this tour.  Captain A. J. Alexander is the player missing in the team photo above.

The team played three Test matches against New Zealand on this tour. According to Indian hockey historian K. Arumugam and Indian hockey statistician B. G. Joshi, these matches against New Zealand were international matches.

India played her first international hockey match against New Zealand on Saturday 26 June 1926 at Lancaster Park, Christchurch. That team included two Sikhs, Dhian Singh playing as left back and right winger Sangara Singh.

The first Test match, between the Indian Army and New Zealand was played before a crowd estimated to surpass over 12,000 spectators. Special trains were arranged just for this match. The weather was mild, and there was an entire absence of wind. The ground had been specially prepared, and was in good order for a clever exhibition of stick work. The band of the Fourth Battalion Cadets was in attendance, and as the All Blacks filed on to the ground, the band played "God Defend New Zealand."

The Indian Army team, playing in red shirts, white shorts and red socks, was: Goal keeper K. Ghulan Ali; Right back Kishena Singh; Left back Dhian Singh; Right half D. T. Cowan (captain); Centre half H. Francis; Left half A. J. Alexander; Right wing Sangara Singh; Right inner E. A. Belchamber; Centre forward Dhyan Chand; Left inner H. V. Cox; Left wing Susai Nathan.

The Indian team won by 5 goals to 2 after leading 4 - 1 at half time. Centre forward Dhyan scored three goals, E. A. Belchamber and Sasai Nathan scoring one goal each. C. Watts and S. Bell scored for New Zealand.

New Zealand replaced N. Jacobson (injury) with D. Woodfield mid way through the second half. Two players were shown as "Emergencies" (Substitutes) on the New Zealand Team sheet.

W. H. Down and H. Throp, both Canterbury, were the referees (umpires) for this match.

The 2nd Test match, played on 10 July 1926 in Auckland was won by New Zealand by 4 goals to 3. E. A. Belchamber scoring all three goals for India and the Watts brothers from Auckland, Eric and Clive scoring two goals each for New Zealand. Dhian Singh (left back); Jaginder Singh (left half) and Sangara Singh were the Sikh players in the 2nd Test match.

The 3rd Test match, played on 17 July 1926 at Auckland ended in a 1 - 1 draw. Dhyan Chand scored for India and S. Bell for New Zealand.  Dhian Singh (left back); Jaginder Singh (left half) and Sangara Singh (right wing) were the Sikh players in the 3rd test match.

Crystal Jordan of Australian Indian Historical Society, who has been a great help in assisting with the names in the photographs and associated information on the tour stated "The colour and flamboyance of the Indians cladded in their scarlet turbans, navy blue blazers with the star of India emblazoned on the pockets, white trousers, and scarlet stockings excited the public imagination, as it did in 1901, when the 100 soldiers of the Indian Contingent arrived in Australia wearing their colourful turbans and army uniforms, to celebrate the Federation of Australia".

"The Indian Army Hockey Team was welcomed in Australia because Australia is a sporting country, and any team that visited or visits our shore is welcomed. By competing with the 1926 Indian Army team and subsequent Indian Hockey Teams, Hockey in Australia developed, and this tour laid the foundation for Australia becoming an internationally competitive Hockey playing country".

Thakur Singh's son, Gurdev Singh, played for India at Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games and captained India at the Jakarta 1962 Asian Games.

Dhyan Chand's son, Ashok Kumar, played for India at Munich 1972 & Montreal 1976 Olympic Games and 1st, 2nd & 3rd World Cups.

Dhyan Chand was the only player from this tour who went on to represent India at Olympic Games.

In the above photo of The Indian Army team that toured New Zealand in 1926. Standing 1st  left: Jaginder Singh; 1st right: Sangara Singh. Sitting 4th left Lal Singh; 5th left Thakur Singh; 6th left Dhian Singh


Afternoon with Darshan Singh

By Dil Bahra
3 September 2018

Darshan Singh Kular, India's Tokyo 1964 Gold Medallist shares his hockey experiences  at an event organised by Lubhaya Ram and Baljit Kalsi in Birmingham on Saturday 1 September 2018.

Darshan recalled how, as a schoolboy, he was good at all sports. His  father prompted him to stick to one sport only and suggested hockey.  He went on to tell about the training days and how they played hockey every day.

He recalled his first overseas tour with the Indian team to East Africa in 1959 where the team played 26 matches during their 40 days tour. He shared his disappointment of missing the Rome 1960 Olympic Games because of a knee injury just before before the selection camp.

The Tour to New Zealand Australia in 1961 had its own excitement and he recalled the journey back from Australia by sea where several players got sea sickness. He felt it was a too long a journey - some 3 months long.

He recalled the Ahmedabad International tournament where he played as centre forward (he scored twenty goals including two hat tricks).

He recalled the Jakarta 1962 Asian Games Final with Pakistan and how the team had to play with 9 men as their centre half was injured in the first half and had to leave the field and right half was injured in the second half  (no substitutes allowed in those days).

He recalled his second tour to East Africa in 1963 on way to the Lyons Hockey Tournament in France. He recalled how he was accidently hit on the head by Kenya's captain Avtar Singh Sohal during the last test match and was taken to Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi. He showed his scar from that injury.

He spoke of the emotions when India beat Pakistan in the Final of Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games and the spectators running to the pitch to congratulate the players.

Gurbux Singh, India's captain at Hamburg 1966 tournament and joint captain at Mexico 1968 Olympic Games sent the below message which was read out:

"I feel privileged and happy to recall my old memories of my long association with Darshan Singh.

In fact my association with Darshan started with our first tour of NZ & Australia in 1961 and then we were together in:

1962 - Ahmedabad International Tournament

1963 - Lyons Hockey Tournament in France

1964 - Olympics

1966 - Hamburg International

and more important, we won all the above tournaments.

Darshan has been a perfect specimen of a true team man.

He was essentially a left winger but in 1962 at Ahmedabad, he played as a centre forward and with great success too.

For me, it was his display as a left winger in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics that was remarkable. As you know I had to play as a left half in Tokyo because our left half Rajinder (Rlys) had failed and out of compulsion I had to take his place.

I really found it easy to play at the left half position because of the help and support extended to me by Darshan as he was our left winger. Whenever his help was needed he was there. My job was made easy to block the formidable Pakistan Right flank of Zakauddin and Khalid Mahmood.

And yes, coming back to the 1966 Hamburg tournament, I also strongly feel that was probably the best combination of the 2nd Golden Era of 1963-67 when we won everything.

I wish Darshan all the best, good luck and good health in his future life.

Please convey my best regards to him and others who remember me, particularly Gurdev Singh Ji."

Darshan then recalled his time playing hockey once he had settled in England in 1966.

Jim Tranter recalled when Darshan joined Shifnal Hockey Club and their playing days at Shifnal and Shropshire County team.


Sikh Union Nairobi Olympians honoured in London

by Dil Bahra
23 July 2018

Spencer Hockey Club, one of London's most prominent Clubs, hosted an event last Friday (20 July 2018) where Sikh Union Nairobi players, now residing in the UK, who had represented Kenya at Olympic Games were honoured. Over a hundred hockey lovers attended this special function.

Avtar Singh Sohal, Patron of Sikh Union Nairobi Club had come to London to honour the players. Avtar himself played for Sikh Union Nairobi from 1957 until 1978, Kenya from 1957 to 1972 and was the National captain from 1962 until 1972. He played at Rome 1960; Tokyo 1964; Mexico 1968 and Munich 1972 Olympic Games, captaining the team at the last three Games.

Avtar played as Left back for Club and Country. His partner, for both Club and Country, was the late Kirpal Singh Bhardwaj who played as Right back for the Club from 1957 to 1969 and for the Country from 1959 to 1968. He represented Kenya at Rome 1960; Tokyo 1964; Mexico 1968 Olympic Games. Sadly he died in November 2013 and his daughter, Sandeep, attended the event to collect his award.

Jack Simonian, played for the Club from 1962 until 1973 and for the National team from 1960 until 1968. He represented Kenya at Rome 1960; Tokyo 1964; Mexico 1968 Olympic Games.

The trio of Jack in Goal, Avtar and Kirpal as Full backs were the backbone for both Sikh Union Nairobi and the Kenya team when Kenya was at her peak in international hockey during the golden period in the 1960s.

Davinder Singh Deegan played for Sikh Union from 1965 to 1979 and for Kenya from 1965 to 1978. He represented Kenya at Mexico 1968 and Munich 1972 Olympic Games.

Harvinder Singh Marwa played for the Club from 1966 to 1973 and for the Country from 1966 to 1972. He represented Kenya at Mexico 1968 and then vice-captained at Munich 1972 Olympic Games.

His younger brother Amarjeet Singh Marwa played for Sikh Union from 1965 to 1976 and Kenya from 1966 to 1974. He represented Kenya at Mexico 1968 and Munich 1972 Olympic Games.

Surjit Singh Rihal played for Sikh Union from 1969 to 1989 and for Kenya from 1969 to 1981. He represented Kenya at Munich 1972 Olympic Games. He took over as captain from Avtar as Kenya's National captain from 1973 to 1981, totalling almost two decades of Sikh Union domination as Kenya National captains.

Surjit, Davinder and Amarjeet were selected for Montreal 1976 Olympic Games. The team was in the Olympic Village in Montreal when Kenya, together with other African countries, pulled out of the Games at the last minute for political reasons. Surjit was selected as the captain for the Montreal Games.

Harvinderpal Singh Sibia played for Sikh Union from 1971 to 1972 and for the National team during this same period.  He represented Kenya at Munich 1972 Olympic Games.

Jitender Singh Panesar played Sikh Union from 1976 to 1985 and for Kenya from 1978 to 1985. He represented Kenya at Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games.

His younger brother Manjeet Singh Panesar played for Sikh Union from 1978 to 1998 and for Kenya from 1979 to 1988. He represented Kenya at Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games.

All the above players, who were playing members of Sikh Union Nairobi Club at the time of their selection for Olympic Games are featured in the Mahan Hall of Fame at the Clubhouse in Nairobi.

Tochi Panesar and his team at Spencer Hockey Club hosted a marvellous evening which was enjoyed by players and fans alike.

Above photo by Karam Bharaj. Left to Right: Manjeet Panesar; Amarjeet Marwa; Jack Simonian; Dil Bahra; Davinder Deegan; Surjit Rihal; Sandeep Bhardwaj; Avtar Sohal; Harvinder Marwa; Harvinderpal Sibia; Jitender Panesar


Nirpal (Rodu) Singh Bharaj (1958 – 2018)

by Dil Bahra
9 June 2018

Nirpal Singh Bharaj, fondly known as Rodu, a hockey personality both in Kenya and London died suddenly on Friday, May 25. He had just turned 60.

His funeral will take place at City of London Cemetery and Crematorium,  Aldersbrook Road, Manor Park,  London E12 5DQ  on Sunday 10 June 2018 at 1300 hrs.

Rodu was born on 14 February 1958 in Kampala, Uganda.  He grew up in Nairobi, Kenya.  His family moved to Eldoret in December 1964 and Rodu studied at Uasin Gishu Primary School, Eldoret.

In December 1969 the family moved back to Nairobi and Rodu studied at Parklands Goan Primary School and Nairobi School. He played hockey for his school teams. He also played for Sikh Union Nairobi Tigers team whilst in Nairobi.

In November 1975 the family emigrated to the UK. He played for Ford Hockey Club in East London, Slough and Old Loughts H C.

A knee injury forced him to retire from playing hockey. He then took up golf instead and was a member at Woolston Manor Golf Club in Chigwell, Essex.

Surjit Singh Rihal, former Kenya Captain (1973 - 1981) and Olympian said "Rodu was my ex-student at Nairobi School who had developed an interest and love with hockey at an early age. This is shown by him going to so many Olympic Games and World Cup tournaments to watch the hockey matches. He loved to discuss new players and team performances.  A wonderful cook and host. Will always remember him for the party he hosted for about 10 Olympians and World Cup players at his house just about a month before he passed away. May Wahe Guru give peace to his soul and strength to his family to overcome this difficult time."

Surjeet Singh Panesar (Jr) (Sindh), Kenya's 4 time Olympian said " Rodu was my greatest nephew. He loved everybody from his heart. He only gave love and help to everyone without any expectation in return. Rodu made the effort to gather my old friends (about 10 Olympians & World Cup players) at his house when l was recently in the UK. Shocking news that he has left us so soon after that. May Wahe Guru give peace to his soul and strength to his family for this loss."

Avtar Singh Sohal, former Kenya Captain and four times Olympian said "We will miss him dearly. We watched hockey together in Rio de Janeiro during the Olympic Games in 2016. Nirpal was a truly remarkable sportsman who radiated warmth and happiness where ever he went. He recently donated generously towards the Sikh Union Nairobi turf pitch. He was a true hockey supporter."

Jitender Singh Paneasar, Kenya's Olympian at Los Angeles Olympics, who was his team mate at Ford's said "I've known Rodu for over 30 years. We played hockey together and have been friends ever since. He was a wonderful, humble friend who supported me over the years, and we always had a laugh together.  My memories of him will always be cherished. He will be missed dearly."

Jujhar Singh Plaha, a keen hockey fan himself, having attended ten Olympic Games and eight World Cups said "Rodu was an ardent hockey fan, often to be seen cheering from the stands at international events. A gregarious and amiable chap, whose company was never dull as he kept friends enthralled, greatly enhanced due to his cheerful demeanour."

To me, Rodu was a good friend and family member.  He was a great supporter of my Sikhs in Hockey website. He was also an excellent contact in relation to Kenya . He had contacts scattered all over East Africa. As Rodu's father, Parminder Singh (Pito)  and grandfather, Kartar Singh, were both in the Kenyan Police, he was instrumental in obtaining information for my research into the Kenyan Police. Rodu was a contact you could rely on. He attended so many Olympic Games and World Cups and always bought back souvenirs from these travels.

He leaves behind his wife, Jaswinder (Lovely), daughter Harveen, son Gurpreet, son-in law Jagjit and grandson Arjan.