Indian hockey owes much of its success during its formative years to schools of Mussoorie, which have nurtured as much as 10 Olympic hockey gold medal winners between 1928 and 1936.
The dominance of players from Mussoorie during this period can be gauged from the fact that the 1928 team had six, 1932 team five and 1936 team had four players who had studied at Mussoorie. Notably, the Indian hockey team won the gold in all three Olympics.
George Marthins (1928), Maurice A. Gateley (1928), William James Goodsir Cullen (1928), Carlyle Carroll Tapsell (1932 to 1936), Ernest John Goodsir Cullen (1936) and Lionel C. Emmett (1936) were the products of St. Georges’ College. Oak Grove school produced Eric Pinniger (1928 to 1932), Leslie Charles Hammond (1928 to 1932), Richard James Allen (1928 to 1936) and Richard John Carr (1932). In addition, N. Nugent after studying in St. Georges’ represented Great Britain and was part of their bronze medal winning team at Helsinki Olympics in 1952.
The most celebrated among all these illustrious players was Eric Pinniger, regarded by many as the best centre-half in the world. He was the vice-captain of the 1928 team and went on to lead the team in the Olympic finals against Holland. Allen, an outstanding goalkeeper, played three consecutive Olympics and in 10 matches conceded only two goals. It is also believed that one of these two goals was scored by USA while Allen was busy signing autographs! However, India won that match 24-1.
Tapsell and Hammond were both defenders and played two Olympics each. The Cullen brothers, William and Ernest, had started grabbing the headlines from their schooldays. William, a left-half, was known for his “rock-like defense”.
Marthins, Gateley, Emmett and Carr were all forwards who played as left or right wingers alongside Major Dhyan Chand, the Indian hockey legend. Marthins usually played as a right inside forward and formed an indomitable duo with Dhyan Chand.
According to Brother Xavier, principal of St. Georges’ College, the school has a high regard for these champions and the four “school houses” have been named after Cullen, Gateley, Marthins and Tapsell.
However, Oak Grove school was oblivious of their illustrious alumni and facts were revealed only when The Tribune contacted the school and an examination of old records was made with the help of Bahadur Singh. Sadly, Brother Xavier does not seem very optimistic about future prospects of the game. “Earlier hockey used to be the main sport but now students are more into cricket and football,” he said.
He also believes that now students are more concerned about securing higher and higher marks in order to get admission to good colleges. “Having certificates in sports is no replacement for high percentages these days,” he said.
Keeping the deteriorating standards of Indian hockey in mind, it would indeed be worthwhile that the schools of Mussoorie nurture more such champions in future and give the much-needed boost to our National sport yet again.
This article was published in the Tribune, Chandigarh dated October 25th, 2008. This content has been reproduced from a blog posted by Raveesh Gupta on June 14, 2009. Here is the link to the original post.