Tuesday, February 22, 2022

October 1964: Nightmare death of a could-have-been gold medal

 October 1964: Nightmare death of a dream gold medal


(I found this  the other day, I don’t know who wrote it)

For those who are still with us, October 1964 will always be a recurring, albeit a fading, nightmare!

ack Row (L - R): Surjeet Singh Jnr,; Saude George; Anthony Vaz; Amar Singh Mangat; Egbert Fernandes; Sang Singh; Edgar Fernandes; Jack Simonian; Jagnandan Singh.

Sitting (L - R): Hardev Singh; Hilary Fernandes (V.Capt,); Hardial Singh (Coach); Anthony D'Souza (Manager); Sukdev Singh (Asst Manager); Avtar Singh (Capt.); Alu Mendonca.

Ground (L - R): Santokh Singh; Arif Khan; Silu Fernandes; Leslie Pinto; Reynolds D'Souza.


1964: On way to tour India


1965: Kenya Womens Team that played Uganda

Standing (L to R): Mahan Singh (Coach); Dawn Holland; Teresa Mendonca-Mandricks; Joyce Mongonye; Maggie Maddocks; xxxx; Vivienne Parkes; Levi

Sitting (L to R): Mitelia Paul-Fernandes; xxxx; Sandy Lewis; Jo Velzian; Bertha Fernandes


1966: Tour of Zambia

Standing (L - R); Ezra Ayodo; Surjeet Singh Panesar (Jr); Lakhbir Singh Dhesi;  Avtar Singh Sohal (captain); Thomas Fernandes (Manager); Amar Singh Mangat; Santokh Singh Matharu; Harvinder Singh Marwa

Kneeling (L - R): Kuldeep Singh Bahra; Harwant Singh Mangat; Ahmad Hassain Sharman; Ajmal Malik; Davinder Singh Deegan; Octavio Pereira


1966: Tour of Zambia

Standing (L - R); Ezra Ayodo; Surjeet Singh Panesar (Jr); Lakhbir Singh Dhesi;  Avtar Singh Sohal (captain); Thomas Fernandes (Manager); Amar Singh Mangat; Santokh Singh Matharu; Harvinder Singh Marwa

Kneeling (L - R): Kuldeep Singh Bahra; Harwant Singh Mangat; Ahmad Hassain Sharman; Ajmal Malik; Davinder Singh Deegan; Octavio Pereira


1966: Tour of Zambia - Zambia & Kenya teams


1966: Tour of Europe - Training Camp in Kenya

Back Row  (L to R):  Davinder Singh Degaan;  Harwant Singh Mangat; Octavio Pereira; Jagmel Singh Rooprai; Charan Singh; Leo Fernandes; Pollycarp Fernandes; Maximo Alfonso

Middle Row (L to R):  Amrik Singh Virdi; Kirpal Singh Bhardwaj; Silu Fernandes; Avtar Singh Sohal; Jack Simonian; Amar Singh Mangat; Alu Mendonca

Front Row (L to R): Tej Parkasg Singh Brar; Egbert Fernandes; John Velzean; Hardial Singh Kular; Cajetan Fernandes; Samad Khan; Surjeet Singh Panesar (Jr); Ajmal Malik


1966: Tour of Europe - Germany


1966: Tour of Europe - Frankfurt


1966: Tour of Europe - Barcelona


1966: at Hamburg Tournament


1968: Tour of Pakistan - Pakistan & Kenya Teams in Lahore


1968: Tour of Pakistan - January 1968


1968: Tour of Pakistan - January 1968


1968: Mexico Olympic Games Team

at City Park Hockey Stadium, Nairobi

Standing (L-R): Kirpal Singh Bhardwaj; Harvinder Singh Marwa; Reynold Pereira; Egbert Fernandes; Jagmel Singh Rooprai; Jagjit Singh Kular; Davinder Singh Deegan; Leo Fernandes; Santokh Singh Matharu; Ezra Ayodo; Ajmal Malik; .........

Sitting (L-R): Amarjeet Singh Marwa; Surjeet Singh Panesar; Hilary Fernandes; Silu Fernandes; Paul Boit (Manager); Hardial Singh Kular (Coach); Avtar Singh Sohal (Captain); Alu Mendonca; Jack Simonian


1971: East and Central African Championship in Lusaka, Zambia


Standing (L to R):- Surjit Singh Rihal, Davinder Singh Degaan,Avtar Singh Sohal (Captain), Hardev Singh Kular (Coach), Kulwant Singh Bawa (Manager), Surjeet Singh Panesar (Vice Captain), Jagjit Singh Kular, Harvinder Singh Marwa.

Sitting (L to R):- Resham Singh Bains, Naran Dass, Amarjeet Singh Marwa, Brajinder Daved, Ravinder Singh Lally, Shabir Bhatti.


1971: Kenya Team at Lusaka

Standing (L to R): Sheikh Dawood (umpire); Sukdev Singh; Davinder Singh Deegan; Jagjit Singh Kular; Surjeet Singh Panesar (Jr); Hardev Singh Kular (coach); Kulwant Singh Bawa (Manager); Hardial Singh Kular (FIH Technical Delegate);  Avtar Singh Sohal (capt); Surjit Singh Rihal; Resham Singh Bains; Amarjeet Singh Marwa; Surjit Singh Jutla (umpire)

Kneeling  (L to R): Harvinder Singh Marwa; Silvester Ashioya; Brajinder Daved; Harvinderpal Singh Sibia; Satpal Singh Marwa; Tarlochan Singh Channa; Naran Dass; Shabir Bhatti; Ravinder Singh Laly


1971: 1st World Cup in Barcelona


Standing (L to R):- Jagjit Singh, Hezron Saggia, Dr I J Khosla (Medical Officer), Avtar Singh (Captain), Hardev Singh (Coach), K S Bawa (Manager), Hardial Singh (FIH Member), Surjeet Singh (Vice Captain), Charan Singh (International Grade 1 Umpire), Alu Mendonca, Leo Fernandes.

Sitting (L to R):- Davinder Singh, Santokh Singh, Amarjit Singh, Tarlochan Singh, Brajinder Daved, Ravinder Singh, Harvinder Singh, Shabir Bhatti, Surjit Singh, Resham Singh, Jagmel Singh


1971: 1st World Cup in Barcelona

Standing (L - R): Tarlochan Singh Channa; Resham Singh Bains; Surjit Singh Rihal; Surjeet Singh Panesar; Hardev Singh Kular (coach); Avtar Singh Sohal (Capt); Leo Fernandes; Davinder Singh Deegan; Jagjit Singh Kular.

Sitting (L - R): Santokh Singh Matharu; Amarjeet Singh Marwa; Harvinder Singh Marwa; Ravinder Singh Lally; Shabir Bhatti.


1971: 1st World Cup in Barcelona


Standing (L to R):- Jagjit Singh Kular, Surjeet Singh Panesar (Vice Captain), Avtar Singh Sohal (Captain), Harvinder Singh Marwa, Leo Fernendes, Surjit Singh Rihal, Tarlochan Singh Channa.

Sitting (L to R):- Amarjeet Singh Marwa, Brajinder Daved, Resham Singh Bains, Santokh Singh Matharu, Ravinder Singh Lally.


1971: Opening Ceremony at 1st World Cup in Barcelona


1972: Munich Olympic Games Team with President Kenyatta


1972: Kenya Olympic Team at State House Nakuru

Standing (L - R); Amarjeet Singh Marwa; Jagmel Singh Rooprai; Tarlochan Singh Channa; Jagjit Singh Kular; Avtar Singh Sohal (captain); Harvinder Singh Marwa; Davinder Singh Deegan; Surjeet Singh Panesar (Jr)

Kneeling (L - R): Ajmal Malik; Resham Singh Bains; Harvinderpal Singh Sibia; Surjit Singh Rihal; Ranjit Singh Sehmi; Brajinder Daved


1972: Munich Olympic Games Team at Training Camp


1972: Kenya Team and a German Club team in Germany prior to Munich Olympics


1975: Kenya Team in Madras, India

8 Nations Tournament in Madras, India

Standing (L to R): Gursharan Singh Lal; Edwin Were; Marcus Vernon; Naran Dass; Tarlochan Singh Channa; Surjit Singh Rihal (captain); Davinder Singh Deegan; Brajinder Daved; Shabir Bhati; Richard Kariuki

Kneeling  (L to R): Gilbert Augula; Pradeep Singh Giddie; Joseph Ndungu; Raphael Fernandes; Satpal Singh Marwa; Arif Chaudry


1976: Montreal Olympic Games Team


1978: Kenya Juniors in Nigeria


1979: Esanda Cup, Perth, Australia

Sitting (L - R): Saidi Mubarak; Sunil Chabra; George Moses, Peter Akatsa; Jitender Singh Panesar; Harvinder Singh Kular; Patrick Martins; Rapheal Fernandes.

Standing (L - R): Tarlochan Singh Chana; Richard Karuki; Kuljeet Singh Dhak;  Surjit Singh Rihal; Pritam Singh Sandhu; Satpal Singh Marwa; Hardev Singh Kular; Tobias Odour; Edwin Were; Shabir Bhatti; Billy Walia.


1983: Tour of Americas

at Colorado Springs 

Standing (L to R): Julius Akumu; M Shakil Ghani; Amarjeet Singh Dhak (umpire); S A Coutinho (Ass. Manager); Avtar Singh Sohal (coach); Hardev Singh Kular (Manager); John Kidiwa (Provincial Sports Officer); Brajinder Daved (captain); Manjeet Singh Panesar; Sunil Chhabra; Parminder Singh Saini; Harvinder Singh Kular

Ground (L to R): Narinder Singh Chana; Giles Fernandes; Jitender Singh Panesar; Emanuel Odoul; Sarabjit Singh Sehmi; Michael Omondi; Christopher Otambo; Peter Akatsa; Riaz Shah




Standing (L-R): George Ocheing; Lucas Alubaha; Sims Goyal; Eluid Okoth; Gerry Obole; Sunil Chabra; Satpal Singh.

Sitting (L-R): Sam Muangi; Julius Mutinda; Julius; Mike Omondi; Chris Otambo; Parminder Saini.


1988: Kenya Squad Seoul Olympics


The mood in the country following Kenya's first three games of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic hockey competition turned so foul that the Editor, Nation Sport, was forced to send a reporter to the streets of Nairobi to record the grim public reaction. In their opening match, Kenya had been held to a shock 0-0 draw by Zimbabwe, then called Southern Rhodesia, a team that they had been expected to use as a warm-up routine before taking on "the real competition.

"This came by way of game two, against Pakistan, the defending Olympic champions and a country we considered our peers or almost. After all, we always gave them a run for their money and sometimes actually beat them.

Pakistan thrashed us 5-2, sending Kenyans into a state of disbelief. Never mind that in our third game, we defeated New Zealand 3-2 to remain on course for a podium finish.

Phone calls inundated the Editor. His banner headline on Wednesday, October 13, 1964 summed up the nation's crushed hopes: "The gold rush has ended.

"This tells you that Kenya had gone to Tokyo with the aim of winning the hockey gold medal. Think about that for a moment.

Cyprian Fernandes was the reporter who usually covered hockey for Nation Sport. He reported: "The first person I talked to yesterday was Jasmer Singh, the Kenya Hockey Union Publicity Officer, who only a few days ago had told me that the current Kenya hockey squad in Tokyo was the “fittest and best ever to leave the country” and that we now had “our best chance of winning a gold medal”.

'"Yesterday, Jasmer was a very disappointed man. He said: “The results of the first two matches came to me as an absolute shock.”

Although the draw against Rhodesia is unthinkable, there might have been some genuine reason for it. We have always boasted that we had one of the finest defences in the game, but I cannot say the same any longer.

Apparently, our defence let us down against Pakistan. I knew that Pakistan was a tough team, but I had never dreamt that they would beat us so heavily.

'"He added: 'There is something drastically wrong with the team and manager Anthony de Souza had better take a very firm grip on the squad. I am disappointed.”

But Henry Braganza, a Nairobi broadcasting engineer and himself a notable hockey player, was blunt: "Frankly, I think they are simply big-headed. All the publicity they had before they left here must have gone to their heads.”

More about these views later. As the clock turns full circle and we return to Tokyo after 56 years, three team sports women's volleyball, women's rugby and men's rugby will make up part of our delegation to this year's Olympic Games.

It is as good a time as any to spare a thought for the original ambassadors, the trailblazers who went head to head with the likes of India, Pakistan and Australia and whose members, now in their 70s and 80s are slowly but inexorably departing the scene, one after the other. This is the men's hockey team.

Surjeet Singh and Jack Simonian are two members of this illustrious generation who have since passed away but whose rich legacy of excellent sportsmanship at the highest levels lives on. The 1964 Olympic team comprised some of the finest players to play hockey for Kenya.

Some, like Avtar Singh, had Olympic experience from the Rome Games four years earlier while others were starting off on careers that would stretch well into the 1970s. Amar Singh, Alu Mendonca, Reynolds D'Souza, Saude George, Hilary Fernandes, Leo Fernandes, Edgar Fernandes and Santokh Singh among other greats are the incomparable golden generation of Kenya hockey.

They are the ones who earned a fourth-place finish in the 1971 World Cup in Spain won by Pakistan. Shortly after their win, the Pakistanis toured Kenya for three Test matches of which Kenya won one.

And in the countdown to Tokyo 1964, the national team had made a tour of India. A dispatch from that outing filed in Nagpur for Nation Sport graphically illustrates the high standards of the game at that time.

It said: "Kenya's hockey tourists have played only five games in India I write this a few hours before the fourth Test here tonight yet a number of their players have already proved they are titans of the game.

"The high standard of skill of men like skipper Avtar Singh, centre-half Surjeet Singh, goalkeeper Saude George, centre-forward Egbert Fernandes and left-winger Alu Mendonca has been a big shock and a stern lesson to everyone connected with the game in India.

These men, more than any others, have proved that India and Pakistan do not hold a monopoly of the world's most talented players. “RAISED EXPECTATIONS  Because of its world-class talent, this team raised stratospheric expectations as it prepared for the Olympics.”

Those who expected it to win the gold medal were not idle dreamers. In fact, as it turned out, one of its victims in Tokyo was Australia, the eventual bronze medallists, whom it beat 1-0. It is also fair to note that it was unlucky.

Look at this wire report about their losing 0-3 game against Germany in their final Olympic match: "This defeat from the Germans at the Komozawa Park here today means that Kenya finishes in sixth place in the Olympic hockey tournament one place higher than they finished at the 1960 Rome Games. The Kenyans, however, are very disappointed with their performance, for they had high hopes of taking at least the bronze medal.

"The game was played in heavy rain and semi-darkness, which forced officials to switch on the floodlights for the first time in the tournament. The rain made the turf pitch greasy and the players found it hard to get a foothold.

This hampered the lively but ineffective Kenya attackers for they rarely managed to keep control of the skidding ball. The Germans obviously enjoyed these conditions.

They took control of the game almost from bully-off and kept a tight grip on the Kenyans. "Players used to the murram pitch of Nairobi City Park Stadium found the going gruelling in the watery astroturf of Kurosawa Park.

Those were conditions the Germans were quite familiar with. Every team sets the standards by which its fans hold them.

The higher the standard, the higher the expectations and vice versa. For the national hockey team of 1964, winning one match, drawing one and losing one at the Games was the equivalent of a disaster.

An accounts clerk by the name John Githegi Kamau told Fernandes that he was now turning all his attention to boxing and athletics. He said: "I was hoping that our hockey boys would win something, at least.

It's a great pity they have done so badly. Let's keep our fingers crossed for Seraphino Antao and the other athletes and boxers.

"And Brian Bowyer, a Nairobi airline official, who had been religiously following the team's progress from the India tour to Tokyo said: "All this has been rather disappointing. I had hoped for something better of the team.

Of course, you have got to allow that they are up against very tough opposition but, nevertheless, we thought our side was just as improved! Still, it's not over yet and anything can happen. Let's hope we'll still be in the race for a medal.

"Since this team exited the scene, Kenya has relied entirely on individual sports, first boxing and athletics and then entirely on the latter in its pursuit of Olympic glory. Winning teams require a high standard of technical and administrative skills to put together.

They are also, of course, a lot more expensive to sustain. Team sports require skills that are not necessarily needed in individual sports.

Athletes need to cultivate a high degree of co-operation, no matter their individual talents because of their interdependence. Success and failure are collective and players must learn to suppress their egos for the good of the team.

Coaches must have knowledge such as human psychology and counselling skills even if not in great depth. In a word, it is much harder to build winning teams than to simply create an enabling environment for individuals and their coaches to thrive.

What happened to the great hockey team of the 60s and 70s? Why did it disappear seemingly never to be seen again? A lot had to do with the political choices the country made. The team was predominantly made up of players of Asian descent.

At independence, many of these were British citizens. The new Kenya Government gave them a five-year period to choose between remaining British or renouncing that citizenship and taking on the Kenyan one.

At the expiry of that period, many players opted to remain British and migrated to Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Some ended up playing for those countries.

The Kenya hockey scene became seriously depleted. Unfortunately, there were no new youth development programmes to restock and rebuild the national team.

African players did embrace the game with plenty of enthusiasm. But they were beset with problems of every kind: changing rules and playing surfaces, technological evolution, poor funding and administrative challenges.

The country has never recovered. The walls of Nairobi's Sikh Union Club are adorned with pictures of the marvellous journey travelled by members of this unforgettable national team.

That effort, a legacy story, represents a great challenge to Kenya's National Olympic Committee to establish a museum in honour of the nation's sportsmen, women, technical and administrative staff who have rendered outstanding service to this country. Our rich stories die with every legend's death.

They should be preserved. 

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