New Delhi: The captain of the Indian hockey team at the 1964 Olympics, Charanjit Singh, passed away Thursday at his home in Una, Himachal Pradesh, after a cardiac arrest following long-term illness associated with age.
The former midfielder was 90 years old and would turn a year older next month. He is survived by two sons and one daughter.
Charanjit, awarded by Padma Shri and Arjuna, suffered a stroke five years ago and has been paralyzed ever since.
“Dad was paralyzed after suffering a stroke five years ago. He walked with a cane, but his health has deteriorated in the last few months and he left us this morning,” his younger son VP Singh told PTI.
In addition to being the captain of the Olympic team that won gold in 1964, he was also part of the team that won silver in the 1960 Games edition. He was also part of the silver team at the 1962 Asian Games.
“His last rites will be performed today after my sister arrives at Una from Delhi,” VP Singh said.
His wife died 12 years ago. While his older son was a doctor in Canada, the younger one was next to him when he passed away. His only daughter is married and lives in New Delhi.
His last rites were performed tonight at Una.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences on Charanjita’s death and paid tribute to him for his contribution to Indian hockey.
“Grieving the death of famous hockey player Shri Charanjita Singh. He played a key role in the success of the Indian national hockey team, especially at the Olympic Games in Rome and Tokyo in the 1960s. Condolences to his family and friends. Om Shanti,” Modi wrote on Twitter.
Sports Minister Anurag Thakur also reiterated similar sentiments, saying Charanjit’s achievements are an inspiration to generations of hockey players in the country.
“The death of former Indian hockey player and captain Shri Charanjit Singh ji, born in Una, Devbhoomi Himachal, is sad. Your death is a great loss for the world of sports,” Thakur wrote on his twitter page.
“Under the leadership of Charanjita ji, the Indian team won a gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. He had exceptional talent in sports. He was awarded the Arjun and Padma Shri Prize for his outstanding contribution.
“Your life is an inspiration to young players. May God give strength to loved ones to endure this sorrow and put a virtuous soul at his feet.”
The double Olympian was part of the glorious days of India. A charismatic midfielder, Charanjit led the Indian national team to a historic gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, beating Pakistan in the final, and was also on the Indian team that won silver at the 1960 Games in Rome.
Charanjit was a former student at Col Brown Cambridge School, Dehradun and Punjab University. After his illustrious career in international hockey, he worked as the director of the Department of Physical Education at Himachal Pradesh University in Shimla.
He was one of the creators of India’s stunning performance at the 1960 Olympics before an unfortunate injury forced him not to play in the final against great rival Pakistan, which they lost by a small margin of 0-1.
The disappointment of 1960 still fresh in his mind, Charanjit-led India four years later reversed the situation, beating Pakistan by the same margin and winning a gold medal.
Recalling a fond memory ahead of last year’s Tokyo Olympics, Charanjit told the Hockey India Flashback Series: “Both teams were considered among the strongest teams during that time and we had a very challenging match against them (Pakistan).
“Moreover, you know how intense it becomes when you play against Pakistan in the final of the Olympic Games. The match was also briefly suspended to calm the temperaments of both teams.
“I told my boys to focus on the game, not to waste time talking to them. We were tested, but we also showed great character and won the game by a close margin of 1-0 and came home with that historic gold a medal. “
Speaking further about his Olympic successes, Charanjit said: “Winning two medals for the country was a moment of pride and honor for me. You know, after winning a gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, we were warmly welcomed on our arrival at the airport. a lot of fans gathered and it was a special feeling for each of us. “
“Hockey was a very popular sport in India. It was given more importance due to its rich history, and our country dominated the sport in its early years. We won many gold medals at a prestigious event like the Olympics, and that is the key reason behind it. “
Hockey India expressed its condolences on the death of Charanjita, saying that the country has lost the legend of this sport.
“This is a sad day for the hockey fraternity. Even in his old age, he would light up every time there were talks about hockey and he could remember exactly every great moment he was a part of during the golden days of Indian hockey.
“He was a legendary quarterback who inspired a whole generation of players. He was a very cold-blooded captain and will forever be remembered for his incredible skills on the field and for his humility off the field,” HI president Gyanendro Nigombam said.