Balbir Singh Sr was one of the finest to have played the sport - Zafar Iqbal

Former Indian hockey team captain Zafar Iqbal pays his tributes to the iconic Balbir Singh Sr, who passed away on Monday.

Balbir-Singh-Sr

Three-time Olympic gold medallist Balbir Singh Sr was regarded as the greatest-ever centre forward to have graced the hockey field.   -  AKHILESH KUMAR

Balbir ji had a happy-go-lucky approach, always smiling. He was one of the finest human beings to have played the sport. One of the main pillars of Indian hockey, we all looked up to him as a player, coach, manager and a friend. Given the 1975 World Cup win under his helm, and the three Olympic golds he won as a player, I would call him Dhyan Chand of independent India.

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His demeanour was an example in itself: always mentally calm and never losing his cool on or off the field. His coaching ethos revolved around team unity. He always said anything is possible if we played as a unit.

Balbir ji was also very diet conscious and paid a lot of attention to his fitness. He never asked us directly to keep a tab on what we ate...perhaps he was hoping we would watch and learn! (smiles).

GALLERY: Balbir Singh Sr's stellar career - In Pictures

One of his biggest compliments, one that I'll cherish forever, came in 1982 when he watched me score a goal against a formidable opponent and said, 'Your hitting reminds me of my playing days.' Can you imagine a triple Olympic gold medallist and one of the pioneers of the sport saying that to me?  It was a priceless moment.

As told to Ayan Acharya

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