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He gave up, except for those who knew him well from the memory of his famous smile, which won him fans crying over his departure after a prolonged illness. But some young feet in the grounds inside the Velodrome in Helsinki sent a different message – ‘Don’t mourn Balbir sir, celebrate him’, while he continues to bless them at the same place where he set the world record. Final of an Olympic hockey.
In the 1952 Games final, Balbir Singh scored five goals in India’s 6–1 victory over Holland. This is a record that still stands and mentions in the Guinness Book of World Records for most goals by a man in a men’s Olympic hockey final. People close to the legend say that he was very angry that day, as his teammates were not giving him the ball when he was in the best position to score. But this is a story for another day.
On 1 June, when Kapila Sports Park in Helsinki reopened after the coronovirus break, the first thing Warriors Hockey Club players bowed to was in front of images of Balbir Singh displayed at the entrance of the stadium.
Helsinki had to wait 12 years from the day it came too close to hosting the Olympics, which was actually capable of hosting the Games. In 1937, after Japan declined for the 1940 Games, Helsinki began preparations to play the hosts, as the city was runners-up in the final bid stage. But World War II destroyed any chance of the Olympics.
The sports infrastructure that arrived in Helsinki in the 1930s was finally put into use in 1952, when Helsinki became the smallest city to host the Olympics.
Among those sports buildings was the velodrome at Kapila Sports Park. In addition to cycling, the ground inside the venue became the home of field hockey in the 1952 Games. From the surface of natural grass in 1952, the area now has a multipurpose artificial surface suitable for playing American football and lacrosse in addition to hockey.
FIELD HOCKEY IN FINLAND
In the modern era, Finland would become synonymous with the Northern Lights, ice, ice hockey and of course, the village of Rovaniemi, Santa Claus in Lapland. To somehow fit field hockey into that fold, 1200-odd people from the Indian community in the Finnish capital showed the way.
A popular figure among the closely connected Indian community in Vantaa and Helsinki is Bikramjit Singh, more popularly known as Vicky Moga – a former hockey player from Moga in Punjab.
Surviving a murderous accident that left him in bed, Vicky finds his love for hockey too strong to do nothing about it, even in a country where the game is only on ice and completely Exists in a different format.
That’s when the Warriors Hockey Club came to life.
“We established this club in 2014. At the time, not much hockey was played here. I contacted the Finland Hockey Association (FHA), because I wanted to do something for hockey here. They asked ‘what do I do could?” I said that I can start by putting up a club. He agreed to give me a chance, ”Vicky said while speaking to Timesofindia.com.
Vicky then went out to assist the FHA whoever it is and is now a member of the association for the past five years. Apart from being the coach and president of his club, Vicky is also the umpire and technical officer for the tournament.
“When I founded the club, there were only two clubs. Now two of our 10. players have represented Finland in the under-16 team,” he said.
“At that time children from Indian families used to play football. I contacted their parents and convinced them to go for hockey. Today we have more than 60 players, originating in more than 20 different countries. Our U-14s And the Under-16 teams are doing very well, because we are winning medals consistently, and our Under-12 team won a gold medal (in an indoor hockey tournament) in 2017, ”said Vicky with a sense of pride.
‘We have the good fortune to travel to a historical site’
The ground inside the velodrome can be seen on the hockey field marking different lines. This is because lacrosse is played here as well as the more popular American football. Turf is slightly softer than what is prescribed for a hockey field, but it is essential to the multi-purpose nature of the ground.
But you cannot find a hockey player who would not be willing to sacrifice a clay-laden train with Indian hockey history.
The 1952 gold was India’s fifth consecutive yellow metal in Olympic hockey, and second in line as an independent nation, when Balbir Singh Sr. led the team as India’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony.
“Call it our luck or good luck, we train in a field where hockey was played 1952 Olympics, “Vicky said that the young players ran after him. The most inspiring thing about it is that in the tournament Balbir Singh Sr. set a world record which is still unbreakable – he scored five goals in the final against Holland.”
This was probably with the blessings of Balbir Singh and certainly the motivation the players told him that in 2017, the club’s under-12 team became the champions of the FHA’s Indoor Hockey League.
The Warriors won the title by topping the table with 15 points, winning five of their six matches in a four-team league. Vicky’s son Arjunjeet was also a member of that team.
Helsinki is called Balbir Singh’s Olympics, as he scored nine of India’s 13 goals in the tournament, including a staggering five in the final.
But in a team game, not fully crediting the team is criminal, and the 1952 Indian squad also had other legends who would go into the ‘Hall of Fame’ any day.
The leading team was accompanied by the likes of KD Singh ‘Babu’ (two Olympic gold medals), Leslie Claudius (3 gold medals, 1 silver), Udham Singh (3 gold medals, 1 silver) and Keshav Dutt (2 gold medals). To complete a formidable organization with Balbir Singh.
To play on the same soil that is nothing short of the blessings of those heroes, and the Warriors Hockey Club is counting on him.
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