2021

 
 

When Kenya made it to the semi-finals of the World Cup in 1971

by Dil Bahra
7 April 2021

Fifty years ago - Barcelona World Cup

The idea of holding a Hockey World Cup had come from India and Pakistan, then the two dominant nations in international hockey, in early 1969.

At the council meeting of International Hockey Federation (F.I.H.) in Brussels on 11/12 April 1970, Pakistan was confirmed as hosts for a 10-team tournament to be held in Lahore in February 1971.

The four top finishers in the inaugural European Cup would be joined by the top three from the 1970 Asian Games. Kenya and Argentina were selected on recent results to represent their respective continents, while Australia and New Zealand contested the one spot for Oceania.

The ten teams in the World Cup were divided into two pools of five as follows:

Pool A

Pool B

Europe 1st - WEST GERMANY

Europe 2nd - HOLLAND

Europe 4th - FRANCE

Europe 3rd - SPAIN

Asia 2nd - INDIA

Asia 1st - PAKISTAN

Africa 1st - KENYA

Australasia 1st -  AUSTRALIA

America 1st - ARGENTINA

Asia 3rd - JAPAN

Each team will play the others in their pool (on a league basis) and the nations finishing in the first place will compete against that finishing second in the opposite pool in the semi-finals.

F. I. H. agreed to implement the experimental rule of substitution of players as follows:

a. replacement of the goalkeeper may be made at any time;

b. replacement of one field player may be made within the first 50 minutes of a game;

c. a player may be replaced for any reason (though naturally once he has left the field, he may not return);

d. no suspended player may be replaced.

The number of players will be limited to 16 plus one official 9and one umpire if selected by the F.I.H.).

Selected countries must ratify their agreement to participate by November 30th, 1970, by notifying the host country and the F.I.H.

The first Hockey World Cup on grass, which was to have taken place in Lahore in February 1971, was postponed because of fears that the competition would take place in "an atmosphere of violence". The postponement came little more than a fortnight before it was due to begin.

It was eventually held at the Royal Polo Club in Barcelona, Spain in October 1971.

The Kenya Squad (in shirt number order), which was selected shortly after the team won the East and Central African Championship held in Lusaka, Zambia, in August 1971, was:

 

 1

Amarjeet Singh Marwa

Rangers Hockey Club Nakuru

 2

Surjeet Singh Panesar

Sikh Union Club Nairobi

 3

Avtar Singh Sohal (captain)

Sikh Union Club Nairobi

 4

Santokh Singh Matharu

Railway Gymkhana Club Nairobi

 5

Surjit Singh Rihal

Sikh Union Club Nairobi

 6

Resham Singh Bains

Sikh Union Club Nairobi

 7

Leo Fernandes

Goan Institute Nairobi

 8

Jagjit Singh Kular

Sikh Union Club Nairobi

 9

Davinder Singh Deegan

Sikh Union Club Nairobi

10

Ravinder Singh Laly

Sikh Union Club Nairobi

11

Tarlochan Singh Channa

Sikh Union Club Nairobi

12

Shabir Bhatti

Railway Gymkhana Club Nairobi

13

Jagmel Singh Rooprai

Railway Gymkhana Club Nairobi

14

Harvinder Singh Marwa

Rangers Hockey Club Nakuru

15

Saggia Hezron

Wanainchi Hockey Club Nairobi

16

Brajinder Daved

Railway Gymkhana Club Nairobi

The team departed Nairobi for Barcelona on 2nd October 1971.

The Squad stopped over in Athens, Greece for one day.

The next stopover was Rome, Italy where Kenya played one match against Italy on 6 October 1971. President of Italian Hockey Commission, Mr Antoni Triglia and India's Olympian, Inder Singh, who emigrated to Italy after Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games, met the teams before the start of the match.

Kenya started their tour a little disappointingly, managing only a 2 - 2 draw. Avtar Singh Sohal, the captain, twice  gave Kenya the lead at penalty corners but each time ‘Kiki' Aramu equalised.

The visit to Rome brought happy memories to two of Kenya's players. Avtar Sohal, recalls "For Surjeet Junior and me, this is where we played our first Olympic in 1960. The following day the team visited the Olympic Velodrome which was a great inspiration for the younger members of our team before the World Cup"

Kenya then moved on to Amsterdam where they beat the Netherlands, Europe's No, 2 Nation, 2 - 1, with Jagjit Singh Kular scoring both the Kenya goals. It was a good match marred by an eye injury to van Staveren which put the Dutch captain out of the world cup.

The team reached Barcelona on Sunday 10th October 1971.

Surjit Rihal recalls "I felt like as if l was back at Lyallpur Khalsa College Jalandhar after the holidays when l met the Indian Team at the hotel. A few of them were my classmates at the college about two years ago, with some of them l had played for Punjab University and Combined Universities and with most of the rest l had played at the Indian National Training Camp at Jalandhar."

He added "Here in Barcelona our teams went for training at different times and l used to meet my friends from India at dinner times to talk about college friends and chat about the college days."

The team practiced on the pitches at the grounds of the Pablo Negre summer house  in Can Salvi, just outside Barcelona, which had three purpose built hockey pitches. They lost 1 - 0 to the Spanish team in a friendly match before the tournament started.

Day 1 - Friday 15 October 1971.

Kenya was drawn in Group ‘A' together with Argentina; France; India and West Germany.

The very first World Cup match began at 10 in the morning of Friday, October 15. Europe's No 1 team, West Germany, beat America's No 1 team, Argentina, 5 - 1.  

India defeated France 1 - 0, Harmik Singh scoring the only goal of the match from a penalty corner in the 43rd minute, in the other match of Pool A.

In Pool B, Spain defeated Japan 2 - 0 and Pakistan defeated Australia 5 - 2.

Four matches were played each day. Kenya and Holland had a rest day.

Day 2 - Saturday 16 October 1971.

Kenya's first match of the World Cup was the first game of the day starting at 9 in the morning against France, who had lost to India the day before.

George Grain gave France the lead with a field goal in the 27th minute. Kenya lost the game 0 - 1.

In between the second and third match of the day, the opening ceremony was held.

The last match of the day, at 1535 hrs was India v Argentina. India won with a goal by centre forward Rajwinder Singh in the 54th minute.

In Pool B matches, Spain and Netherlands drew 0 - 0 and Pakistan defeated Japan 1 - 0.

Day 3 - Sunday 17 October 1971.

West Germany beat France 4 - 0 in the first match of the day. 

Kenya's second match was against India. India had played and won both their previous matches and a win for them in this match would qualify them for a semi-final place.

Surjit Rihal recalls "During the warm up before the game, seeing the Indian team in the other half of the ground, reminded me of the times in India playing with and against them. Just before the start of the game when we were waiting for the whistle, many thoughts came to my mind. At Lyallpur Khalsa College, l used to play Left Half along with Ajitpal as Centre Half and Captain, l was the College Captain in the final year. Now we were both playing Centre Half against each other. This was the first time for me to play against the Indian National Team in an International Tournament. I felt proud to see that my classmate, Ajitpal was now the Captain of the Indian Team. I was also facing my other College and University team mates from India. I had learnt the Indian way of scooping the moving ball from Ajitpal and l used it successfully against India in this match. We had a very competitive game but lost 0-2 late in the match."  

The India v Kenya match, at 1245 pm was a good match with both teams playing attacking hockey. India, however, scored two goals in the last five minutes of the match. Kulwant Singh gave India the lead in the 65th minute when he followed a rebound from Kenyan goalkeeper, Amarjeet's pads with a first time shot. A minute from the end, Vinood Kumar clinched the Indian win with a hard shot from a penalty corner hit.   

At the end of day 3, by defeating Kenya 2 - 0, India qualified for semi-finals, with six points from three matches with a game to spare. Kenya remained without a win after two matches with only two pool matches remaining.

In Pool B, Pakistan and Netherlands drew 3 - 3 and Australia drew 1 - 1 with Japan.

Davinder Deegan recalls "after the loss to India, Hardial Singh Kular, (the coach of the Kenya team at Tokyo 1964 and Mexico 1968 Olympic Games) invited the team to his hotel. He used all his experiences to motivate us and had encouraging words with us to prepare for the next two games". 

Surjit Rihal recalls "The Indian Team was very happy with the performance of their team but our team was a bit depressed after losing the two opening matches. On the other table, our friends from West Germany, were telling us ‘Kenya go home, Kenya go home, you have no chance to progress'. The only way we would have a chance was if we win the next two games and West Germany lose their two remaining games. Our reply to them was ‘we have not lost to you as yet and we are going to win against you tomorrow'. Their words inspired us and made us more determined to play strong against them the next day". 

Brajinder Daved recalls "I remember distinctly the German team taunting us that the tournament was over for us and we ought to go home as we were playing Germany the next day". 

Avtar Sohal recalls "after the loss to India, during dinner time, everybody in our team were in pin-drop silence state and looked demoralised because next to our long dinner table were the Germany players were having their  meals and were in very jovial and sarcastic mood cheering themselves with wine, indicating that they were going to thrash us in tomorrow's game. I requested our team to stay behind after the dinner and said good night to the officials. I took the team to the beach for a stroll to motivate them for the morning's game against Germany. We discussed and planned our strategy and brought confidence in the team and they were in high spirits promised to go for the kill".

Day 4 - Monday 18 October 1971.

Kenya, without a win, then played West Germany, Europe's No 1 team and Olympic semi-finalists, who were one of the favourites to win the World Cup.

West Germany who had won both their earlier pool matches, scoring nine goals, only needed a draw in their remaining two matches to qualify for the semi-finals.

Kenya on the other hand lost both their opening games and had not scored a goal in the tournament yet.

Kenya made a couple of technical changes to their forward line up for this crucial match. Jagjit Kular, who had limped off in the match against India the previous day, was fit again and he was moved to centre forward position. 17 years old, Brajinder Daved was called up to play as inside right with 19 years old Ravinder Laly playing as inside left.

Jagjit Kular, gave Kenya the lead in the 20th minute when he converted Leo Fernandes' cross from the right wing. This settled Kenya's nerve, taking them to a 1 - 0 lead at half time. Kenya's captain Avtar Sohal increased the lead from a penalty corner in the 49th minute. In the dying minutes of the match, Davinder Deegan scored Kenya's third goal.   

Brajinder Daved, Kenya team's youngest players, recalls when selected to play against Germany "it was my first ever trip to Europe - it felt like a dream coming true by playing in such a prestigious tournament".

France defeated Argentina 1 - 0 in the other Pool A match.

In Pool B, Netherlands defeated Australia 1 - 0 and Spain defeated Pakistan 3 - 2.

Day 5 - Tuesday 19 October 1971.

At the start of Day 5, the last day of the Pool matches, only India from Pool A were the only team to have had already qualified for the semi-finals. France had played all their four matches and was on 4 points. Pakistan in Pool B had also played their four matches and was on 5 points.

In the first match of the day, at 10am Netherlands, who were on 4 points from three matches, were favourites to beat Japan, who were bottom of their table. However, Japan won 1 - 0 with a Penalty corner goal by Toshiaki Ichinose in the 65th minute and knocked Netherlands out of a semi-final position. Netherland's loss meant that Pakistan were through to the semi-finals.

The second match of the day was Kenya's last pool match was against Argentina, No 1 team from America. Kenya needed a win to have any chance of a place in the semi-finals. Ravinder Laly settled his team's nerves with a goal in the 18th minute to give his team a 1 - 0 lead at half time. Tarlochan Channa increased the lead in the 62nd minute to give Kenya a comfortable win and then wait for the last match of the day, at 1435pm between India and West Germany.

In the third match, a Pool B match, Australia defeated Spain 1 - 0 with a penalty stroke goal by Don Smart in the 53rd minute. Spain had, however, qualified for the semi-finals following Netherlands loss in the first match of the day.

India defeated West Germany, who only needed a draw to qualify for the semi-finals, 1 - 0 through a Kulwant Singh goal in the 47th minute.

At the end of the day, West Germany, Kenya and France were all tied on 4 points each in Pool A.  West Germany and Kenya, who had better goal-difference, had to play a play-off match for 2nd and third place in Pool A, on the rest day, to decide which team progressed to the semi-finals.

Davinder Deegan recalls" During dinner, after our win against Argentina, we celebrated Diwali. The Indian team were also celebrating. Our spirits were high and we were ready for the pool play-off match against Germany the following day."

Avtar Sohal recalls "We tied on points with Germany and had to play them again for the semi-final. We assembled for dinner and requested our officials through our team doctor to allow our team to have a glass of wine each and we cheered loudly to show the Germany team that we were ready for them for the morning's crucial game against them. The German team were sitting on the table next to ours. Our moral and spirits were very high leading to the morning's match".

Day 6 - Wednesday 20 October 1971.

This was the second time in three years that Kenya was in a play-off match to decide which team progressed to the semi-final of a major tournament. At Mexico 1968 Olympic Games Kenya lost 2 - 3 to Australia in the Pool B play-off match.

The Kenya line-up included Surjeet Panesar, Harvinder Marwa, Leo Fernandes and Santokh Matharu who had played in the Mexico play-off match against Australia three years ago.

Kenya had psychological advantage going into this play-off match having defeated West Germany 3 - 0 two days earlier in their pool match. In a tension packed match, Michael Peter gave the Germans the lead from a penalty stroke in the 38th minute. Two superb penalty corner strikes by Kenyan Captain Avtar Sohal within a space of three minutes  (59 min & 62 min) put Kenya through to the semi-finals of the World Cup.

This was a remarkable achievement  and comeback by Kenya, the East African champions after losing their opening two matches.

Brajinder Daved recalls "After winning the pool playoff match with Germany most of the senior payers were in tears and being so young I did not understand why - it transpired that they were tears of joy as we had just qualified for the semi final of the world cup!"

Kenya's Minister for Co-operatives and Social Services, Musembi Mbathi, who is responsible for sports in the Republic of Kenya sent a telegram to the Kenya hockey team congratulating them on their success in the World Cup.

The telegram read: "The Government and people of Kenya are thrilled and proud to hear of your success on Kenyatta Day and entry into the semi-finals. Congratulations and wish you the best of luck".

Day 7 - Thursday 21 October 1971.

Kenya had a Rest Day on Day 7, having played matches on 5 consecutive days (the only team to do so in the tournament). The match schedule was intense. Two classification matches were played in Tarrasa.

Day 8 - Friday 22 October 1971.

Both the semi-final matches were played in Tarrasa on Friday 22 October 1971, day 8 of the tournament.

Jagmel Rooprai recalls "the travelling time to the venue took us two and a half hours"

The first semi-final, India v Pakistan was played at 12.30pm. Rajwinder Singh gave India the lead at half time when he scored a goal in the 31st minute. Abdul Rashid equalised in the 39th minute and Munawar - uz - Zaman scored Pakistan's winner from a penalty corner in the 57th minute.

The second semi-final, Spain v Kenya was played at 2.30pm in front of a crowd of 7,000. The match went into extra time and Jorge Fabregas scored the Spanish winner in the last moments of extra time.

Brajinder Daved recalls "The semi-finals got moved to Terrassa which is in the hills and about 25 miles from Barcelona. The pitch had been watered to slow our team down as the Real Club de Polo pitches were fast and suited our style of play. We lost 1 - 0 to Spain in our semi-final and I felt devastated because we did not make it to the final".

Day 9 - Saturday 23 October 1971.

Seventh match on day 9 was against India for the Bronze medal. Kenya had lost 0 - 2 to India in their Pool A match.

Rajwinder Singh gave India an early lead when he scored in the 14th minute. Kenya captain equalised in the second half from a penalty corner strike in the 58th minute taking the match into extra time. M P Ganesh scored India's winning goal in the 89th minute.

Brajinder Daved recalls "In our bronze medal match with India my strike from a short corner rebound hit an Indian player on the goal line - we appealed for a penalty and were denied. Whilst we were appealing India started the game and went on to score the winning goal - devastated again. Luck and umpiring decisions did not go our way and we came away without a medal. So near yet so far has stayed with me ever since then".

Day 10 - Sundy 24 October 1971.

Pakistan won the World Cup, defeating Spain 1-0 in the final.

After the Final, the closing ceremony took place.

The Final standings were 1. Pakistan; 2. Spain; 3. India; 4. Kenya; 5. West Germany; 6. Netherlands; 7. France; 8. Australia; 9. Japan; 10. Argentina.

On the return journey home, the team stopped over in London. They played one match against Wales in Cardiff on Wednesday 27 October 1971 and one match in Coventry at Coventry and North Warwick Club on Sunday 31 October 1971 and arrived back in Nairobi on 9th November 1971.

The win against West Germany, twice in a space of three days, and a semi-final place in the World Cup is Kenya's best position in a F.I.H. world event to date. Kenya played in one more World Cup, in Amsterdam in 1973 where they finished last (12th).

West Germany, on the other hand, went on to become Olympic Champions the following year at Munich. They followed this success with three more Olympic Golds (Barcelona 1992; Beijing 2008 and London 2012).

West Germany played a two match test series in Nairobi with Kenya in March 1972. They drew one match 0 - 0 and lost the second 0 - 1. Since then they have never lost to Kenya. 

Legacy: After the Barcelona World Cup, where did the player's hockey careers end up and where are the players today, 50 years on?

 1. Amarjeet Singh Marwa: after Barcelona World Cup, Amarjeet played at Munich 1972 Olympic Games, his second Olympic Games. He played at Amsterdam 1973 World Cup. He was selected for Montreal 1976 Olympic Games which Kenya, together with other African Nations, boycotted, at the last minute, for political reasons. He emigrated to the UK in xxxx. He resides in the U.K.                       

 2. Surjeet Singh Panesar: after the Barcelona World Cup, Surjeet played at Munich 1972 Olympic Games, his fourth Olympic Games. He retired from playing international hockey after Munich Olympics. He died in Nairobi, Kenya on 6 November 2019 aged 81.

 3. Avtar Singh Sohal (captain): after the Barcelona World Cup, Avtar captained Kenya at Munich 1972 Olympic Games, his fourth Olympic Games. He retired from playing international hockey after Munich Olympics and took up coaching. He was Kenya's Coach from 1978 to 1988. He was Kenya's Coach at Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games. He also took up Umpiring and was awarded his FIH international Umpires badge in 1980. He was on the FIH Development and Coaching Committee in 1988 and was a Judge at Seoul 1988 Olympic Games. He still resides in Nairobi, Kenya.  

 4. Santokh Singh Matharu: Santokh retired from playing international hockey after the Barcelona World Cup. He died in Nairobi, Kenya on 21 July 2011 aged 69.

 5. Surjit Singh Rihal: after Barcelona World Cup, Surjit played at Munich 1972 Olympic Games. He was Kenya captain from 1973 to 1981 and captained the team at Amsterdam 1973 World Cup. He was selected as captain for the Kenya team for Montreal 1976 Olympic Games which Kenya, together with other African Nations, boycotted, at the last minute, for political reasons. He took up umpiring and coaching after retiring from playing international hockey in 1981. He was Assistant Manager / Coach at Los Angeles Olympic Games.  He resides in the U.K.            

 6. Resham Singh Bains: after Barcelona World Cup, Resham played at Munich 1972 Olympic Games. He retired from playing international hockey after Munich Olympics and took up umpiring. He umpired at the London 1986 World Cup and 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 the Chairman of Kenya Hockey Union from 2005 - 2013. He still resides in Nairobi, Kenya.

 7. Leo Fernandes: after Barcelona World Cup, Leo went on to represent Kenya at Munich 1972 Olympic Games, his third Olympics. He retired from playing international hockey in xxxx and emigrated to Canada in xxxx where he still resides.

 8. Jagjit Singh Kular: after the Barcelona World Cup, Jagjit played at Munich 1972 Olympic Games, his second Olympic Games. He played at Amsterdam 1973 World Cup and later that year immigrated to Canada. He died in Toronto, Canada on 12 June 2017 aged 75.

 9. Davinder Singh Deegan: after Barcelona World Cup, Davinder played at Munich 1972 Olympic Games, his second Olympic Games. He played at Amsterdam 1973 World Cup. He was selected for Montreal 1976 Olympic Games which Kenya, together with other African Nations, boycotted, at the last minute, for political reasons. He emigrated to the UK in 1979. He resides in the U.K.                       

10. Ravinder Singh Laly: after the Barcelona World Cup, Ravinder was selected to represent Kenya at Munich 1972 Olympic Games but was dropped from the squad for citizenship reasons days before the squad departed for the Olympics. He immigrated to the UK in 1972 and played club hockey at the highest level, firstly with Havant Hockey Club in Portsmouth and then with Slough Hockey Club, winning the National indoor championship and the European Cup Winners Cup with the Club. He is currently the President of Slough Hockey Club and still plays Masters hockey.

11. Tarlochan Singh Channa: after Barcelona World Cup, Tarochan played at Munich 1972 Olympic Games. He played at Amsterdam 1973 World Cup. He was selected for Montreal 1976 Olympic Games which Kenya, together with other African Nations, boycotted, at the last minute, for political reasons. He still resides in Nairobi, Kenya.

12. Shabir Bhatti: after Barcelona World Cup, Shabir played at Munich 1972 Olympic Games. He played at Amsterdam 1973 World Cup. He was selected for Montreal 1976 Olympic Games which Kenya, together with other African Nations, boycotted, at the last minute, for political reasons. He still resides in Nairobi, Kenya.

13. Jagmel Singh Rooprai: after Barcelona World Cup, Jagmel played at Munich 1972 Olympic Games, his second Olympics. He played at Amsterdam 1973 World Cup. He emigrated to the UK in xxxx. He resides in the UK.

14. Harvinder Singh Marwa: after Barcelona World Cup, Harvinder played at Munich 1972 Olympic Games, his second Olympic Games. He was selected for the Amsterdam 1973 World Cup but injury just before the tournament started forced him to drop out. He retired from playing international hockey after that. He emigrated to the UK in xxxx. He resides in the U.K.           

15. Saggia Hezron:

16. Brajinder Daved: after Barcelona World Cup, Brajinder played at Munich 1972 Olympic Games. He played at the Amsterdam 1973 World Cup. He was selected for the Kenya team for Montreal 1976 Olympic Games which Kenya, together with other African Nations, boycotted, at the last minute, for political reasons. He played in the 1974 Africa Cup of Nations and was captain at the 1983 Africa Cup of Nations. He was Kenya's captain at 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. He came to study to the UK in 1974 and played club hockey at the highest level with Bedfordshire Eagles and Slough Hockey Club with whom he won the UK National Indoor and Outdoor Championships including The European Cup Winners Cup. He also won numerous county championships with Middlesex County. He resides in the U.K.

 
 
 
 

My memories of Sikh Union Nairobi tour of India 50 years ago

by Surjit Rihal
28 March 2021

Sikh Union Club Nairobi hockey team (unofficial East African Hockey Champions) decided to tour India in April 1971. Instead of defending the title of the M R D'Souza Gold Cup competition played at Easter Time in Nairobi, the team decided to take part in the Bombay Gold Cup (Mumbai) and the Beighton Cup of Calcutta (Kolkata). The organisers of the tournaments in India sent invitations to Sikh Union Nairobi team and gave them a bye to enter these tournaments in the later stages (pre-quarter) just like the bigger teams/clubs of India.

To raise funds for the tour, the players collected advertisements from well-wishers and put them into a brochure. On 27 March 1971, the Club organised an entertainment/musical function with food at the Shree Visa Oshwal Mahajanwadi Temple/Hall on Limuru road, Ngara. The team was flying out on the same night after the function. It was a successful evening and we raised a lot of funds for the trip. Jagjit and l nearly missed the flight because we got a little late leaving from the function as we were involved in the organisation of the function. Luckily, the flight was delayed for a few hours due to some mechanical problem in the engine of the aeroplane and we were able to join the team.

I would like to recognise and thank all my friends from the University of Nairobi (I was a student there at that time) who provided majority of the entertainment for the success of the function.

The Management Committee of Sikh Union Club Nairobi appointed Kulwant Singh Bawa (Senior Vice-President of Kenya Hockey Union and Past President of Sikh Union Club) as Manager. Hardev Singh Kular (National Coach of Kenya Hockey and a former Olympian, 1956 & 1960 OGs) was appointed Coach of the team. Team: Avtar Singh Sohal (Captain), Jagjit Singh Kular (Vice-Captain), Amarjeet Singh Marwa, Surjeet Singh Panesar, Santokh Singh Matharu (Railway Gymkhana, guest player), Surjit Singh Rihal (University Student), Resham Singh Bains, Harvinder Singh Marwa, Davinder Singh Deegan, Ravinder Singh Laly (Student), Tarlochan Singh Channa (Student), Parminder Singh Kalsi (Student), Jagmel Singh Rooprai (Railway Gymkhana, guest player), Harvinderpal Singh Sibia (Student), Amarjit Singh Dhak (Railway Gymkhana, guest player), Davinder Singh Eari (Student), Kuldip Singh Bhogal (Sikh Union Kampala, guest player). There were a lot of young players (students) in this Sikh Union team with not enough experience to face the more mature experienced teams that we were going to face in India. Therefore, the Club decided to invite a few experienced players from other clubs as guest players to accompany the team. A few days before the team departed, an invitation was sent to Kuldip Singh Bhogal of Kampala Sikh Union. He accepted the offer and came to Nairobi for the tour. He was a big asset to the team's forward line.

As the matches in India were going to be played on grass, we started to practice at Sikh Union's grass ground (cricket field). I am not sure if many of my team mates had imagined/visualised the conditions under which they were going to play in India. We were going to play in India in April when the temperatures are much higher than we have experienced in Mombasa or Kisumu in Kenya. The grounds are very fast with the smooth surfaces and short grass. Most of the bigger teams in India have a lot of current and ex-international players playing in their teams, so the teams we were going to play against would provide more tough competition than we were used to in Kenya. To play in front of very large number of spectators compared to what we have seen in Kenya, would be another challenge. Overall, the experience we were going to gain in India was going to be of an unforgettable and invaluable one. Jagjit and l were used to playing in the above conditions. Both of us had played for Lyallpur Khalsa College Jalandhar (1966-1969) and Punjab University, India. We also played for a club team (Rock Rovers of Chandigarh) managed by S N Vohra; we had played around the country in some of the major tournaments in India.

After the fund raising Musical function on 27 March at the Shree Oshwal Mahajanwadi Hall, the team left for the airport to catch the flight in the early hours of 28 March. It was very nice to see a few committee members of Sikh Union Club including the President of the Club, Kulwant Singh Wahra, who had come to see off the team at the airport. The flight was delayed for a few hours when they were sorting out a mechanical problem in the engine. Finally, the Egypt Airways plane took off for Cairo, Egypt. We spent a few hours at the airport and then we took off again and reached Mumbai (Bombay) late at night.

We checked into Astoria Hotel near Church Gate. The Hockey Stadium where we were going to play was walking distance from the hotel. For the next few days we practiced on the local club grounds and played two friendly matches with some local teams. It was very hot and our shirts used to be full of sweat even before playing. The tournament had already started by the time we reached Mumbai, other teams were playing the earlier rounds, we had to wait to join at the pre-quarter stage.

The Bombay Gold Cup Hockey Tournament is organised by ‘The Mumbai Hockey Association Ltd'. Late Naval Tata was the President of the Association when the Gold Cup was first played. The Bombay Gold Cup Hockey Tournament was first played in 1955. The Gold Cup was donated by Hon Late Morarji Desai who was the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra.

Our first match was against Central Railways at the pre-quarter stage. It was a very hot day to our expectation and the Stadium was packed with thousands of spectators. Many of our young players were shocked to see the very large number of spectators (around 9000) and shouting in support for their teams. The ground surface was very smooth and the pace of the game was also very fast. It took us some time to adjust to these conditions as we had practiced on the uneven dry grass cricket ground at Sikh Union Nairobi. We won the pre-quarter match by 2-0 goals. Goal scorers were, Surjit Singh Rihal and Ravinder Singh Laly. In the quarter-final match on 3 April, we played Calcutta Customs, another very strong team. With every match we played, our team was getting more accustomed to the hot weather, fast ground surface, crowd noise and the opponents skills. We again won our match against Calcutta Customs by 2-0 goals. Goal scorers were, Surjit Singh Rihal and Ravinder Singh Laly. We now moved into the semi-final to face Combined Services XI. Combined Services won their pre-quarter match against Western Railways 4-2 goals.

In the quarter-final match, Combined Services won against Southern Railways. So, now in the semi-final match, our opponents were the strongest team in the tournament. We lost the semi-final match to the strongest team in the tournament, Combined Services. In the final game of the tournament, Combined Services won their match against Indian Airways. We went for a day trip to Poona and played a friendly game with some local team.

After the tournament before proceeding to Kolkata, most of us went and saw shooting of a film at one studio and then went to R K Studios. We met one of the very famous Producer/Director at the studio. He called Dharm Singh Deol (Dharmendra/Dharmender) - one of the greatest Bollywood actor of his time) and informed him that there was a Sikh hockey team who have come from Kenya and would like to meet him. Dharmender invited the whole team to his house and we had tea and snacks with him.

Now the time had come for us to go to Kolkata (Calcutta) to take part in the Beighton Cup. The Beighton Cup of Kolkata is one of the oldest field hockey tournaments started in 1895. It was initially organised by the Indian Football Association, in 1905 Bengal Hockey Association took over. The tournament was played on the Mohun Bagan ground.

We travelled by train in this hot weather. The distance between Mumbai to Kolkata is about 2000 Km and the train took almost 32 hours to reach there. Most of our team got down at every station to buy cold drinks, tea and food. It was a very tiring and uncomfortable journey with so many passengers in our coach and no space to sleep. So, by the time we reached Kolkata, the team was exhausted and needed a good rest.

We practiced for a few days and played friendly matches against some local teams. Just like Mumbai, Kolkata was equally hot and a crowded city. The tournament was already in progress when we reached Kolkata. The local Sikhs were very impressed to see a Sikh hockey team from Kenya and organised a small gathering in our honour. On 15 April we played our first game, the pre-quarter match against Mohammedan Sporting, one of Kolkata's very popular and strong team. The fans of Mohammedan Sporting were much more louder compared to the fans of teams in Mumbai. The game was a bit verbal and tempers were high in both teams. Kuldip got hurt on his hand and was unable to play for the rest of the tour. There were not many chances created to score by either of the teams. Luckily, we got a penalty stroke and l (Surjit Singh Rihal) scored from the penalty spot. In the quarter-final, we were to play Mohun Bagan, another very popular and strong team of Kolkata. The match had become a bit physical and both teams started to pass comments to each other and tempers rose. The spectators (around 12000) were very loud, tried to encourage their team and discourage ours, and even passing rude comments to the umpires. Then all of a sudden, we noticed slippers, mud and all unwanted stuff flying on to the pitch. Our wing players started to move inwards, away from their positions to avoid getting hurt. The rest of our team sitting outside had to take shelter in order to avoid getting hurt. This carried on for some time, then we explained to Mohun Bagan's Captain that his team needs to appeal to the supporters to stop throwing all this stuff otherwise his players could also be hit and could get hurt. The game was stopped for some time, Mohun Bagan's players went around to their supporters to plead to them. We did score 2 goals which were disallowed under the pressure of the supporters. We lost the game which we could have won. The umpires were escorted by the Tournament organisers and Police. We were there for a few more days after we finished our matches.

We then left Kolkata for New Delhi by train. The distance is around 1500 km and the train took about 23 hours. This was again a tiring journey under the hot conditions but very interesting. We stayed for a few days at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium (National Stadium). We played against a local team from Delhi at the famous Shivaji Stadium. Here they had a ball catcher/boy (Satti), who almost single handed covered the whole ground.

We then travelled by train to Jalandhar, Punjab for a few days. The distance of about 380 km was covered in 6-7 hours. Most of our team had heard about the famous village, Sansarpur (Nursery of Indian hockey). Some of our senior players had played against some of those Olympians from Sansarpur village. They were keen to see the village and meet those Olympians. I used to go regularly with Jagjit Singh Kular, Ajitpal Singh Kular and other friends to their village Sansarpur when we were studying at Lyallpur Khalsa College Jalandhar (1966-1969). From our hotel in Jalandhar City, we took a local bus to Jalandhar Cantt (passing my College on the way) and then rickshaws to the village. They had organised a small tea party for us. In addition to meeting some Olympians, we also met Bachittar Singh Kular (father of Hardial Singh - Vice President of FIH and former Chairman of Sikh Union Club; Hardev Singh - 1956 and 1960 Olympian; and Jagjit Singh - 1968 and 1972 Olympian) and Sardara Singh (father of Hardev Singh - Kenya International player). Bachittar Singh and Sardara Singh had played for Sikh Union Nairobi in the 1920s/1930s. Their children also played for Sikh Union later on. We had 2/3 free days. Some of team players paid a visit to their villages and the others relaxed in Jalandhar.

From Jalandhar we were again on our very long train trip (1800km and time taken 30 hours) to Mumbai. The team was now exhausted because of the tough matches played, hot weather and many hours in the crowded trains.

After a very successful tour of India, the team left Mumbai on 4 May by Egypt Airways for Cairo. We had to stay in Cairo for two days before we could get the flight for Nairobi. A good opportunity for us to go around the city and visit the famous Pyramids.

We left Cairo on 6 May to reach Nairobi on the same day. The games we had played and the large number of players we had seen play, gave us the much needed experience and ideas to improve our performances in the future. 11 players from this India tour were selected to play in the East African Championships in Lusaka, Zambia (August 1971). Kenya won the Championship. Later in October, 12 players were selected to play in the 1971 Barcelona World Cup. Here Kenya finished 4th.

A great achievement.