Hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr is no more. He breathed his last at Mohali, Punjab, today (Monday). He was 96.
The three-time Olympic champion breathed his last at the Fortis Hospital in Mohali since May 8. He is survived by daughter Sushbir Kaur and three sons Kanwalbir Singh, Karanbir Singh and Gurbir Singh.
Hockey India has expressed deepest condolences on the sad demise of Balbir Singh Sr.
Besides being the member of the 1948, 1952 and 1956 Olympics champion hockey teams, he was also the manager of the Indian hockey team that won the World Cup in 1975. He was also the coach of the Indian team that won the bronze at the 1971 World Cu.
The legend had scored five goals in India’s 6-1 victory over the Netherlands in the Gold medal match of the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Under his Captaincy, India scored 38 goals and conceded none on its way to the Gold medal in 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Beating England 4-0 in their own backyard during the Final of the 1948 Olympic Games as an independent nation was Balbir Sr’s ‘greatest moment’.
“Today, we have not only lost our greatest hockey legend but we have also lost ‘our guiding light’. While his achievements in post-independent era have been well-documented, Balbir Sr remained the greatest fan of the sport and was always there when we needed his advice. Hockey has lost its brightest star and everyone at Hockey India is pained by this news,” expressed Hockey India President Mohd Mushtaque Ahmad said in his condolence message.
“Pained to learn about the demise of Padma Shri Balbir Singh Sr ji, a legendary hockey player who left indelible imprint on world hockey with his stick. I was fortunate to have met the lively and joyful Balbir Ji, a three time Olympic gold medalist. My condolences to his family,” Union Home Minister Amit Shah stated in a tweeted message.
” I will cherish the simplicity, humility and pride that he brought to bear in his own charming way. His ready wit and willingness to share his vast knowledge were stand out features. Indeed, Balbir Singh ji leaves behind a rich legacy that cuts across all sport and physical boundaries. My prayers are with his family and the entire sporting community that mourns his passing,” said Indian Olympic Association and International Hockey Federation president Dr Narinder Dhruv Batra.
“Balbir Sr’s achievements in hockey cannot be emulated. It is difficult to mention him in past-tense because for us he was always there. One could call on him for advice at anytime, his spirit and adulation for the game will be missed. I am sure even in his absence, his life as a hockey legend will inspire many generations,” added Hockey India Secretary General Rajinder Singh .
For his stellar contribution to the game, Balbir Sr was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian honour in 1957 and was conferred with the Major Dhyan Chand Life Time Achievement Award by Hockey India in 2014. Balbir Sr also became the only Asian male and only Indian among 16 athletes to be chosen as “Iconic Olympians” by the International Olympic Committee across the modern Olympics’ history.