It’s been 43 years since the Indian men won a Hockey World Cup. The team won the 1975 Hockey World Cup in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, defeating arch-rivals Pakistan 2-1.
As the 2018 Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup begins in Bhubaneswar, Indian hockey fans would be looking back to that famous win, hoping that the team comes up with a repeat performance in front of a supportive home crowd.
Road To The 1975 World Cup Final
India had to fight their way to the 1975 World Cup finals played at Kuala Lumpur’s Merdeka Stadium with some patchy performances in the group stages.
India defeated England 2-1 in their first Pool B match and drew their second match with Australia 1-1 before trouncing Ghana 7-0. But the team then suffered a shock 1-2 loss to Argentina. The demoralising defeat forced the senior players to revisit their strategy.
It would take a 3-1 win over Germany in the last pool match for the Indian team to get back its confidence and make it to the semi-finals. But one last challenge remained before India could make it to the 1975 Hockey World Cup final.
Hosts Malaysia were in no mood give a walk-over in the semi-final match and India had to fight hard to come back from behind and win 3-2 in extra time.
India Win The 1975 World Cup Title
Pakistan’s Muhammad Zahid Sheikh struck in the 17th minute of the first half, giving his team a 1-0 lead. India trailed at the end of the first half and the early moments of the second half.
The equalizer came in the 44th minute through Surjit Singh, the team’s star defender and penalty-corner specialist.
Seven minutes later, Dhyan Chand’s son Ashok Kumar scored India’s second goal and the score line read 2-1. The ball had hit the goal post and bounced back; the Pakistanis argued that it had not crossed the goal line but the umpire believed otherwise.
Pakistan received a free hit in the dying moments of the game but the Indian defenders warded off the attack, ensuring a famous victory at the 1975 Hockey World Cup and sparking off unprecedented celebrations back home.
Golden Run In World Hockey
India enjoyed a dream run in world hockey in the 1930s and 1940s, winning the gold medal at all the Olympic Games held between 1928 and 1956. Hockey wizard Dhyan Chand played a key role in several title victories.
He was part of the gold medal winning team in the 1928 (Amsterdam), 1932 (Los Angeles), and 1936 (Berlin) Olympic Games. India went on to win three more Olympic gold medals on the trot, in 1948 (London), 1952 (Helsinki), and 1956 (Melbourne). The Games were not held in 1940 and 1944 due to World War 2.
India’s dominance at the Games, however, began waning after the 1960 Tokyo Olympics where it again won the gold medal. The team ended with bronze medal finishes in 1968 and 1972. It was not until the 1980 Moscow Olympics, boycotted by many countries, that India would win another gold medal.
It had finished runner-up at the 1973 Hockey World Cup, losing to Netherlands in the final.
Bhubaneswar All Dressed Up For The World Cup
Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha, is all geared up to host the 2018 Men’s Hockey World Cup from 28 November to 16 December.
The venue, Kalinga Stadium, has been revamped. The city has undergone a makeover, with beautification projects and steps to improve transport and public amenities.
The state government hopes that the global attention the meet will receive will transform Odisha into a hockey and sports destination. Earlier this year, state Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting that hockey be declared as India’s national game to give it a boost.