Beighton Cup is one of the oldest field hockey tournament running till date. Instituted in 1895, it is organised by Bengal Hockey Association and used to be held on natural grass at the Mohun Bagan ground on the Maidan in Kolkata (earlier called Calcutta) in India and for last few years has been held on Astro Turf (artificial grass) at Sports Authority of India (SAI East) in Kolkata . The Beighton Cup was presented by T.D. Beighton, Legal Remembrancer of the Government of Bengal, and was run initially by the Indian Football Association. The Calcutta Hockey League took off in 1905.
British officers popularised the game amongst soldiers in India; hockey, as an organised sport, originated in Kolkata. The Anglo-Indian clubs of the time, most significantly, the Calcutta Naval Volunteers Club, now the Calcutta Rangers Club deserve a big share of the credit. Not only did Rangers Club win the Beighton Cup nine times, including in its inaugural year, it was directly responsible for two of the country's Olympic gold medals. When the Indian Olympic Committee did not have the funds to send the Indian team in 1932 and 1936, it was the generosity of the Rangers Club, rich with funds from its four-times-a-year sweepstakes, that ensured that the team set sail for Los Angeles and Berlin.
Some credit for popularising the game in India goes to the Irish Christian Brothers. Many of them were so skillful that they would have walked into the Indian team had it not been for their vocation. However, they passed on their skills to the boys who studied in the many schools that they ran, up in the hills and on the plains. St. James' School won the Beighton Cup way back in 1900. In the 1940s and 1950s, Bengal had strong teams in Kolkata such as Customs and Port Commissioners, and Bengal-Nagpur Railway in Kharagpur. It went on to win the 1952 national hockey championship held in Kolkata, defeating Punjab.
Dhyan Chand remembers
In his autobiography Goal!, the legendray Dhyan Chand remembers his Beighton Cup debut. He says, “In my opinion it is perhaps the best organised hockey event in the country. Kolkata is indeed lucky that it has at least three or four first class hockey grounds on the maidan, and this is a great advantage to run a tournament on schedule. Instituted in 1895, this tournament has had a non-stop run. World Wars I and II did not affect the tournament. Threats of Japanese bombs and actual bombings in Kolkata while the hockey season was on also did not prevent the tournament from being held. That being said, it is sad to think that the tournament had to yield to the communal frenzy which gripped the nation in 1946-47.”
He further says, “If anybody asked me which was the best match that I played in, I will unhesitatingly say that it was the 1933 Beighton Cup final between Calcutta Customs and Jhansi Heroes. Calcutta Customs was a great side those days; they had Shaukat Ali, Asad Ali, Claude Deefholts, Seaman, Mohsin, and many others who were then in the first flight of Indian hockey. I had a very young side. Besides my brother Roop Singh, and Ismail, who played for the Great Indian Peninsular Railway in Mumbai, I had no other really great player in the team. But I had a team which was determined to do or die. It was a great match, full of thrills, and it was just opportunism that gave us the victory. Customs were pressing hard and our goal was at their mercy. Suddenly I broke through and from midfield gave a long through pass to Ismail, who ran with Jesse Owens' speed half the length of the ground. A misunderstanding occurred between the Customs left-half and the goalkeeper, and Ismail, taking every advantage of it, cut through and netted the only goal of the match. We felt very proud of our triumph.”
Hockey in Kolkata
Apart from the Beighton Cup, Kolkata had many firsts in hockey to its credit. The first hockey association in India was formed in 1908 — the Bengal Hockey Association. The first national hockey championship of India was held in 1928. It was called the inter-provincials, with 5 provinces of undivided India participating. The first Indian Olympic team for the Amsterdam Games was selected in Kolkata after the 1928 nationals.
Barry O'Brien gives a vivid description of the game in Calcutta in olden days. Crowds of up to 10,000 were common at a top game. The ladies with their parasols, the men with their Panama hats and solar topees, graced the occasion. A band played at half-time and good-natured barracking and much laughter could be heard. When Claudius took the ball from off his goal-line, they would comment, Eh-ta Claudius or shout, Hail Claudius, as if saluting a Roman Senator.
Twenty-seven Olympic gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze medal ~ that is what Bengal's hockey can boast of. However, all that is history and Kolkata no longer has a hockey Olympian. Despite its pioneering role in the history of Indian hockey, Kolkata is the only major metropolis in India without an artificial turf. “How can you hope to produce international class players if you cannot give the players astroturf to play on?” asks Gurbux Singh, secretary of the Bengal Hockey Association. Leslie Claudius agreed that the absence of astroturf is responsible for this decline, but added: “Ours was a different era. We were successful, so the enthusiasm for the game was naturally high. How can you have that today? Even the educational institutions are not interested in hockey nowadays. But you can’t blame them. Young people don't find hockey exciting enough. Maybe if we can give them astroturf, the fast surface can lure them back into the game.”
Trevor Vanderputt, a former Rangers captain and Bengal selector, went on to become the Director of Coaching in Australia; Pat Jansen, an inside-left with a deadly reverse flick, played for India in the 1948 Olympics, before he immigrated to Australia. There was the brilliant BNR trio of Carl Tapsell, Dicky Carr and Joe Gallibardy, all great Olympians. While Carr dazzled with his stickwork, Gallibardy and Tapsell were penalty-corner pioneers – Gallibardy being the first player ever to push the ball in rather than hit it, and Tapsell the first penalty-corner goal-scoring specialist in the game. Gallibardy, who immigrated to Spain, lived with the regret of missing out on another gold in 1948 when at his peak.
There was the outstanding Keshav Dutt at centre-half, also a classy badminton player. 1968 captain Gurbux Singh, an Aligarh University blue, has served the game for close to five decades. In spite of an in-form Vece Paes, the hugely gifted Ashok Kumar and the legendary Aussie Ric Charlesworth, on the field Gurbux was everyone's choice for Man of the Match; and he was 40 at the time. Garney Nyss, who according to Dhyan Chand was a player from heaven, could well have made it to four Olympics. He didn't make it to even one - twice thanks to the second World War, once due to an injury, and once courtesy Pankaj Gupta. While Nyss never forgave Gupta for keeping him out of the team, there were many who called Gupta “Mr Hockey”. A man who loved life and a drop of whisky, he gave his life for the game, as a manager, administrator and even a referee.
|2007||Indian Airlines||Border Security Force, Jalandhar|
|2006||Punjab & Sind Bank||Border Security Force, Jalandhar|
|2005||Border Security Force, Jalandhar||Army XI|
|2004||Punjab & Sind Bank||Army XI|
|2003||Border Security Force, Jalandhar||Indian Oil Corporation|
|2002||Punjab Police||Central Reserve Police Force|
|2001||Central Industrial Security Force, Chandigarh||Border Security Force, Jalandhar|
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