Nostalgia – My early hockey days in High school and college

When SCD Government College won Panjab University title for the first time

By Prabhjot Singh

After a long break, I finally moved to High School. With high first division, I was confident of getting admission in Government Model High School, Cemetery Road in Civil Lines. It was perhaps one of the best English medium schools those days.

Most of my class fellows in Model Town Model School, too, got admission there. Our school was known for its sports teams, including hockey and basketball (both boys and girls), besides table tennis and badminton.

In 1970, when the newly set up Punjab School Education Board conducted its first ever Matriculation Examination, our school not only produced the State topper in Rajinder Singh Bhatia (753/900) but also had 27 students (with 625 or more marks) in the merit list. I was second in the school with 681 marks and 111th in the State. Incidentally, I was the only regular player in the school to figure in the merit list.

Earlier, the matriculation examination used to be conducted by Panjab University. But reorganization of Punjab in 1966 had the schools in the undivided State distributed among Punjab and Haryana Boards.

Our school hockey team thathad besidesme (Prabha), Gurdishpal Singh (Lalli), Ajinderpal Singh (Kallu), Sukhjit Singh Raju (Sheikhu), Bhawanjit Singh Gill (Daana), Harpal Singh Brar (Palli), Manjit Singh Sidhu (Manna), Barmi brothers, Bahal Singh Jagday, and Simmar Pal Singh Gill (Peter), was known to play neat, clean and attractive hockey. Since the Cemetery Road School did not have any playfield of its own, we used to practice at Gymkhana Stadium which was later renovated and named after the first Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji, to coincide with his 500th birth anniversary.

It was not only our hockey training center but much more to us.

The most memorable was the Zonal final of Inter-School hockey in which we were to play Malwa Khalsa Higher Secondary School. Our opponents had an impressive line-up with tough players like Baldev Singh (Dronacharya award winner and famous coach of Shahabad Markanda Centre that produced scores of Olympians and internationals), Kuldeep Singh (he played for Western Railway for many years), Gurwinder Singh aka as Golu (great goalkeeper), Tara (speedy forward), besides Jasbir Nagi (we later played together for Government College, Ludhiana). Master Charanjit Singh, a tough task master, was the coach-cum-manager of Malwa School team and it also happened to be the defending champion team.

Since we were from a high-profile school, we were known to play textbook neat and clean hockey while our opponents were known for their tough and robust tactics.

The match had already evoked great response. Malwa School used to get a strong crowd support from nearby villages. We were primarily an urban school, we felt handicapped as we had no supporters.

Just a day before the final game, our team meeting was addressed by Mr. Harbhajan Singh Sandhu, father of Gurdishpal. He was then District Development and Panchayat Officer. To cheer us up, he said he would get a big crowd from nearby villages to counter the supporters of Malwa School.

As expected, there was a big crowd for the game. We started well, attacking our opponents from the right flank where Sukhjit and Peter were in great nick. Ever green Bhawanjit (Daana) did torment the opponents defense with some superb moves worked out by our dribbling master and playmaker Ajinderpal.

Ajinder would often hoodwink his opponents with his superb stick work and create openings for his forwards that would catch opponents defense on the wrong foot.

Our tactics played dividends as we took the lead in the first half. It did not deter the forward line of Malwa School. Led by brilliant Tara, it did threaten our defense.

On one occasion as Tara broke loose, Gurdishpal tackled him from the wrong side and hit him hard on his knee. Tara came down crashing, bleeding profusely from his knee. All broke loose. Crowd was on the field. Gurdishpal disappeared. We were also scared. Fortunately, some of the people brought in by the father of Gurdishpal stood cover for us.

It took a while for tempers to cool down and the game to resume. After assurance that there would be no retaliatory action against our players, we agreed to return to the field.

Though we played our hearts out, we lost the game 1-2 and not without getting Sukhjit bruised badly after he was pushed from behind on the adjoining brick-based basketball court while he was building an attack from the flank.

Barring these two incidents, the game was played on a brisk note and most of the spectators went back satisfied. We were, however, disappointed as it was our best chance to dethrone Malwa School. None of us at that time realized that school rivalries would just evaporate as we all get into college in the following year.

Kuldeep, Gurwinder and Jasbir Nagi, for example, joined Government College, Ludhiana, and we became teammates.

It was in 1970, the year the college was celebrating its Golden jubilee, I got admission in Pre-University (Medical). It is one of very few educational institutions that used to boast of the bestgrassy hockey ground, exclusive football and cricket grounds, an international standard athletic track, a swimming pool, basketball, tennis and volleyball courts besides a weights training hall.

Hockey ground was so famous that it played host to a Test match against the visiting national team of France. For its maintenance, no one was allowed to walk on its sprawling green lawns, and trespassers were fined heavily. As a hockey player, it was a dream comes true for me as I played hockey on this ground for six years. During this period, the college hockey team created history. In 1974, it won the Panjab University Inter-College championship for the first time in 54 years.

This historic triumph was not without some pulsating moments and a drama. Four teams that had qualified for Inter-Zonal that year were SGGS College, Chandigarh: Jat College, Rohtak, Government College, Gurgaon, and Government College, Ludhiana. Till then, all Haryana colleges were still affiliated to Panjab University. We played a goalless draw against SGGS College, Chandigarh, in our opening game of the round-robin league. A 2-0 win over Jat College, Rohtak, in the second game boosted our chances as we started tasting our first title victory. In our third and final game, when we left the Hostel for hockey ground, we were all determined to score a big win as SGGS College was also expected to win its last game against Jat College Rohtak.  To win the title, we needed a better goal average as we and SGGS College had the same number of points with one win and one draw in our first two games each. And since Jat College with brilliant right-winger Phool Kumar, in its side, we expected it to give a tough fight to SGGS College. Our game was the first of the last day. Gurgaon College also had an outstanding and speedy center forward Shamsher Singh. Since he was the only dangerous man in our rival team, we decided to mark him tightly.

We started very well, scoring five goals in the first 23 minutes before Shamsher broke loose and dribbled past almost our entire defense. Before he could do a shot at the goal, our center-half, Kuldip Singh, who later played for Western Railway and Railway, physically checked him and hit him in the knee. Withering in pain, he sprawled on the field. Umpire Gurcharan Singh Bodhi (coach of the 1975 World Cup Champion Indian hockey team) gave Kuldip marching orders. Trailing by a big margin and losing their star player was too much for the Gurgaon team.

It walked out in protest saying that Umpiring was biased. Repeated requests by umpires to the Gurgaon team to return and resume the game met with no response. An SOS was sent to Dr. B.L. Gupta, the then Director of Sports. Within minutes he arrived on the ground and talked to the two Umpires. He asked umpires to blow a whistle and ask the teams to resume the game.

The Gurgaon team, however, refused to relent. After a couple of warnings, Dr. Gupta threatened to scratch our rivals for defying umpires. The threat did not work. After a few minutes of Gurgaon refusing to take the field, Dr. BL Gupta went inside the ground and called the Manager of Gurgaon to send his team. He refused. Furious Dr. Gupta then not only scratched the team but also ordered Gurgaon boys to vacate the university hostel within the next 30 minutes. We heaved a sigh of relief when we were declared winners of the game. And in the last game, contrary to expectations Jat College beat SGGS College to confirm our number one position in the league.

Interestingly, that team had three Nagi brothers – Onkar, Harpal and Jasbir – and two Grewal brothers – Sukhvir and Jagbir. Besides Sukhvir Grewal, another member of the team, Gurdeep Singh Pannu, who happened to be a nephew of the then DPE of our college, Sohan Singh Pannu, also played for India. Gurdeep was chosen to represent India in the 1975 Rene Frank International Tournament in Madras. The tournament was held a few months after India had won the third World Cup in Kuala Lumpur. Sukhvir played for India for a number of years and had the distinction of coaching the Indian Olympic hockey team to Barcelona in 1992.

Fortunate as we were, our first year in the college saw us come face to face with many of country’s eminent personalities, including Sahir Ludhianvi and Amrita Pritam, Harkishen Lal (painter), Keki Daruwala, Mohan Sehgal, and Avtar Singh Cheema, besides others. We felt proud that General TN Raina and Maj-Gen Himmat Singh Gill, bureaucrats NN Vohra, MS Gil, IC Puri, SS Puri, Jagpal Singh Sandhu, top police officers Joginder Singh, Rupinder Singh had been students of this great institution. To honor one of its outstanding alumni and scientists, the college was renamed Satish Chander Dhawan (SCD) Government College in 1976.

(Prabhjot Singh is a senior journalist and awell-known Sports commentator. He can bereached at

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