India has a remarkable history in Hockey by claiming eight golds in total, the very first being clinched in its debut match in Amsterdam in 1928. The record is still unbeaten. Hockey is not just a game but linked to the emotions of every Indian, hovering in the packed streets holding sticks and searching for a place to play.
A game that holds a special place in the hearts of every native has witnessed a fair number of players from a village that is now struggling to gain back its glory. Nearly a 40-minute ride from Jalandhar, Sansarpur is known for producing an eminent number of players (14), all ’ve played at the Olympics, magnificent ones the world has ever observed. The village is also called as “Mecca of Indian Hockey.”
Sansarpur has given in excess of 306 International, national-level hockey players. Of these, 200 belong to one family of the village. It has produced the maximum number of Olympians for the nation. These players have represented India, Kenya, and Canada at the Olympics.
The village which has a scarce population of 5,000 is spread in just a 100-yard stretch of land on the outskirts of Jalandhar, Punjab. The thing that attracts attention were the streets where all the 14 phenomenal Olympians were born. Hence, it is famously known as Olympic Street of India.
Serving the nation is a common virtue each Sansarpurians carries in themselves. The high-spirited villagers were filled with a strong feeling of devotion and loyalty towards their village land. They consider the village hockey ground as their sacred mother, a feeling that has been transferred over to the young generations. As we walked through Olympic street, young hockey players were heading over to the ground to practice.
From a common village to Mecca of Indian Hockey
Subedar Thakur Singh was the first representative of the village. He was privileged to play under the captaincy of Major Dhyan Chand while touring New Zealand. The first Indian team to visit foreign lands in 1926 fielded Thakur Singh from Sansarpur.
The narrative and heritage of Hockey players jumped to their peak in 1968 when seven sons of the village participated in the Mexico City Olympics, 5 played for India and two for Kenya.
There were names of hockey legends encrypted outside the houses of Sansaspur. One of such is the mansion of a retired DIG, Balbir Singh, member of the 1964 Olympic Gold and 1968 Olympics Bronze medal-winning team. Balbir was honored with the Arjuna Award in 1999. He is the oldest Olympian of this village.
The other notable names were Gurdev Singh Kullar, Udham Singh Kullar (BSF), Darshan Singh (field hockey) Kullar, Ajit Pal Singh Kullar, Colonel Balbir Singh Kullar, Colonel Gurmit Singh Kullar, Olympian and Freedom Fighter, Balbir Singh Kullar (Punjab police), Olympian, Tarsem Singh Kullar (BSF), Jagjit Singh Kullar.
Besides the Olympics, the hockey players from Sansarpur also won 12 Asian Games medals. As a record, 11 boys from the village were part of the gold medallist team that won in Bangkok at the 1966 Asian Games. It included A Frank, Harbinder, Balbir (Railways), Balbir (Services), Balbir (Pb), Inder, Tarsem, Gurbax, S Laxman, Prithipal, and Jagjit.
Why is the saga falling?
Present-day, Sansarpur is struggling to maintain its identity. In the past few decades, the village hadn’t produced any Olympians. And if we gaze upon the future, the image appears to be unchanged.
Jarnail Singh Kullar is the president of Sansarpur Sports Club. He is concerned about the young children of the village, who have shifted from coming to playgrounds to now dealing with addictive substances.
The other reason behind the falling glory is that young men tend to move abroad upon completion of their studies. Todays’ youth is more inclined to pursue an academic career than pursuing sports. Slowly, Sansarpur is losing its identity of being called the Mecca of the sport.