Hockey always had a special place in his heart. As a professional with
To understand how hockey became a passion for Sukhbir, it is important to know the role his family has had during the glorious days of Indian hockey. During that period, the sticks in the hands of his family members weaved magic on hockey fields around the world.
Harbinder Singh Chimni is not a name that many Indians may be familiar with. Yet, his exploits on the hockey field is the stuff that legends are made of. Younger fans of the sport may have to jog their memory to recollect his name from the history books. He was part of the Indian hockey team’s Olympic Gold-winning squad at Tokyo in 1964. He also has two Olympic bronze medals to his name, when he represented India at the 1968 Mexico Olympics and the Munich games in 1972.
Now, 17 years later, thanks to his role at
Connecting fans with hockey
A few months ago, a team at
The mention of hockey kindled the old passion in Shehnaz. He called up Sukhbir since he was aware of the latter’s love for the sport, and asked him to be part of the team that was working on the potential partnership. Sukhbir’s eyes lit up as he was soon at the centre of the action, much like he would be on the hockey field. Only this time, he was going to help the fans and sport connect with each other.
Several weeks after his eyes had first lit up with the call from Shehnaz, Sukhbir’s dream of further driving the association of the sport with its fans has come true.
“Hockey is the national sport of India and we have many glorious moments associated with it globally. Partnering with this prestigious event gives us a great opportunity to celebrate the sport of hockey and engage with fans across the country.”
“We wanted to bring the sport closer to the fans. Hockey has a special place in the heart of the fans and it has been a wonderful association for us,” Shehnaz said about the association.
It’s all about passion for hockey
Sukhbir’s taking to hockey was hardly a surprise for his family. There had been such a tradition of hockey in his family that every member had some association with the sport. His grandfather, a former army officer, had moved from Pakistan during partition and the family had settled in Amritsar. One of his postings was at Sansarpur, on the outskirts of Jalandhar and often considered the nursery of hockey in India, having given 14 Olympics stars to the country.
By the time he was in grade seven, Sukhbir had been consumed by his passion and he was representing his school in hockey. After an unfortunate accident when the school coach passed away, it was decided that another would not be hired. Sukhbir was asked to also be the coach of the team. “I was the coach as well as captain of the school hockey team,” he recalls.
Glorious history in hockey
The hope that fans would support the Premier Hockey League was not unfounded. India’s record in world hockey is still unparalleled. But the advent of artificial surfaces like AstroTurf changed the sport forever.
Till the time the sport was played on natural grass, India reigned supreme and it showed on India’s track record. Hockey was first played in the Olympics during the 1908 London Olympics. After a brief period when the sport was in and out of the games, it became a regular feature post the Amsterdam games in 1928. It was the first time that India won a gold medal.
That was just the beginning and the talented Indian team, playing on the natural surface, enjoyed an unbeaten record till the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, beating Pakistan. The opponents returned the favour by clinching the gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics before India wrested it back at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964.
The Indian team, led by V. Bhaskaran, last won the gold at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, beating Spain the finals 4-3.
Football is the most popular sport and Brazil and Germany have won the FIFA World Cup five times each, during its 90-year-history. With eight gold medals between 1928 and 1980, six of them in consecutive Olympic Games, no team in history may have dominated any sport like India has.