What is the history of hockey in India?

Hockey has had a rich history in India. The Asian country has been excellent at the Olympics and would love to win a medal at the upcoming Paris Olympics

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Hockey, one of the top sports in the world with an Olympic history and prestigious competitions such as the World Cup, Champions Trophy, and FIH Pro League, has its origins dating back to the sixteenth century.

Hockey is one of the oldest games in the world; a primitive version of the sport was played in Egypt over 4,000 years ago. Its origins date back to Scotland in 1527. The game, known as "hokie" back then, had participants using sticks to smash a little ball around.

However, sometime in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the British invented the first iteration of hockey as we know it today. Back then, it was a well-liked school game that eventually found its way into the Indian army in the 1850s, when it was ruled by the British.

The first hockey club in India was established in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1855. With the ease of access to huge acreage for playing fields and the simple nature of equipment, hockey slowly gained popularity among children and young adults in India.

National tournaments such as the Aga Khan tournament in Bombay (now Mumbai) and the Beighton Cup in Calcutta helped to further popularise the sport in the following few decades, particularly in the former provinces of Punjab and Bombay.

In 1907 and 1908, there were discussions about starting an Indian hockey association, but nothing came of it. It was not until 1925—one year after the International Hockey Federation (FIH)—that the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) was established.

In 1926, the Indian hockey men's team went on its first international tour to New Zealand, where they played 21 games and won 18. A teenage Dhyan Chand, who would go on to become possibly the greatest hockey player the world has ever seen, made his debut at the event.

Hockey had a difficult history with the Olympic Games until 1924 (it was only played in 1920 and 1908 and was dropped for the other editions). However, starting in Amsterdam in 1928, hockey was granted permanent Olympic status because of the existence of the International Hockey Federation (FIH).

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The Indian hockey squad would compete in its first Olympics in 1928 thanks to the Indian Hockey Federation's 1927 application and successful FIH membership. With eight gold medals, it marked the start of a legacy that still stands as a record today. In what was a stagnated period for a while in the Olympics, Indian hockey is ready to bounce back and the men’s team even won a bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics. With the Paris Olympics approaching people would be smart to put their money on the Indian contingent returning home with a medal.

Dominating the Olympics

What is the history of hockey in India?: India won the gold medal in 1948 Olympics, for the first time as an Independent nation -
India won the gold medal in the 1948 Olympics, for the first time as an Independent nation.

In 1928, the Indian hockey team won the gold medal in the Olympics on their debut. Dhyan Chand scored 14 of the 29 goals India scored in its five games, with nil goals conceded.

The Indian hockey team won two additional gold medals in 1932 and 1936 to complete a hat-trick of Olympic hockey golds, and the hockey wizard became the team's cornerstone. In 1936, Dhyan Chand was appointed captain for what would turn out to be his last Olympic competition.

India discovered a new mastermind in the renowned Balbir Singh Sr., who led them to a second hat-trick of Olympic gold medals in 1948, 1952, and 1956—this time as an independent nation—when the Olympics returned following World War II in 1948. It was one of the most important times in Indian hockey history.

India would take the top spot in Tokyo 1964, whereas Pakistan stopped India's gold run in the final of the 1960 Rome Olympics. But it was clear that India's hegemony over the sport was waning.

Before taking home the gold in the 1966 Asian Games, the Indian hockey team was placed second in the 1958 and 1962 competitions. But in 1968, India's lowest-ever Olympic result came in Mexico, where they only managed a bronze.

Read Also: From Abhinav Brinda to PV Sindhu: Every First for India at Olympics

The 1970s: Women’s team goes international

What is the history of hockey in India? India won the 1975 Hockey World Cup -
India won the 1975 Hockey World Cup.

The first Hockey World Cup was hosted in Spain in 1971, and it helped hockey gain popularity outside of the Olympics. Even though India placed third and Pakistan defeated Spain to win the championship, the sport was rapidly gaining popularity in Europe and advancements were being made.

India secured another bronze medal at the Munich Olympics in 1972. In 1973, they advanced to the World Cup final but were defeated by the Netherlands.

India's participation in international hockey was primarily limited to men, but in 1974, the women's team participated in their first women's Hockey World Cup and was placed a respectable fourth.

When the men's team won its lone World Cup championship in 1975, there appeared to be a turning point.

However, the men's Indian hockey team was placed seventh in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, which saw the first use of artificial grass fields tailored specifically for the sport.

For the first time since the women's team managed a similar result at the 1978 World Cup, it put an end to India's Olympic podium streak.

The men's team also won three straight silver medals at the Asian Games in 1970, 1974, and 1978 during this decade.

1980s-2008: A period of stagnation

India failed to qualify for the Olympics for first time in 88 years -
India failed to qualify for the 2008 Olympics for the first time in 88 years.

The Indian hockey teams had a great start to the 1980s. In the inaugural women's hockey Olympic competition, the women's team was placed fourth, while the men's team capitalised on a reduced field to capture their eighth gold medal in Moscow 1980.

The women's Indian hockey team won a historic gold medal at home while the men's team took home silver in the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi, where women's hockey was played for the first time.

Still, following this time there were no further awards to come.

Since Indian hockey teams were hesitant to adopt artificial turf, with most local players still playing on natural grass fields, they were unsuccessful in international competitions.

The only medals won by the men and women at the 1986 Asian Games were a bronze apiece. They were unable to advance to the semi-finals of either the World Cup or the Champions Trophy, which was only open to men.

With Dhanraj Pillay's 1989 debut for the Indian hockey team, the sport saw a resurgence, and India could once again boast of being a global superstar.

However, in the absence of sufficient backing, Pillay was unable to ignite a wave of triumph for the Indian hockey team, even if his outstanding individual performance in 1998 nearly put an end to India's gold-medal drought at the Asian Games.

During this time, women's struggles persisted throughout the world even though they took home a silver medal at the 1998 Asian Games.

Another venue for international hockey was created when the sport was introduced at the 1998 Commonwealth Games. In the first edition, the Indian women's and men's teams came in fourth.

At the 2002 Commonwealth Games, although the men were unable to qualify, the Indian women's hockey team went on to win gold. At the 2006 Asian Games, the men could only finish sixth, and the ladies went on to win silver in the 2006 edition.

When the Indian hockey men's team missed out on qualifying for the Olympics in Beijing in 2008—their first Olympics since 1928—it was the lowest point in the sport's history.

Read Also: Indian Hockey team's schedule for Olympics 2024

Revival of Indian hockey

The men's Indian hockey team bounced back from the 2008 setback by winning bronze at the Asian Games and returning to the podium in the Commonwealth Games in 2010.

The Indian hockey men's squad earned a spot in the 2012 London Olympics. Even though India finished last, it did make some gains. Although the men qualified for Rio 2016, the women's qualification—their first for an Olympic Games in 36 years—grabbed the headlines this time.

Indian hockey appears to have regained momentum in the years that have passed. The women's team, captained by Rani Rampal, placed ninth in the world their finest year, winning silver at the 2018 Asian Games. Under the direction of teenage captain Manpreet Singh and new head coach Graham Reid, the men's Indian hockey team has adopted an offensive mentality.

What is the history of hockey in India? India's bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics 2021 - Sportz Point.
Indian Men's hockey team won the bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics.

In 2020, the men's squad participated in its inaugural FIH Pro League campaign, emerging victorious against top-tier teams worldwide, including Belgium, Australia, and the Netherlands. The men's hockey team's 41-year Olympic medal drought was broken in Tokyo 2020 when they defeated Germany in a thrilling playoff game to take home a bronze medal.

Indian Women's Hockey Team qualified for the semi-finals of any Olympic event for the first time in Tokyo |
Indian Women's Hockey team qualified for the Olympics semi-finals for the first time in Tokyo

In just its third Olympic competition, the women's team showed incredible perseverance to secure fourth place and just missed out on the bronze medal to Great Britain. One of India's most well-known triumphs was also accomplished by the ladies when they eliminated favourites Australia in the quarterfinals.

Hangzhou Asian Games: India thrashed Japan to claim hockey gold - Sportz Point
India won the gold medal at the 2023 Asian Games.

Fast-forward to Birmingham, England in 2022, where India won the silver and bronze medals in the men's and women's competitions, respectively. The Indian men's hockey team earned the gold medal at the Asian Games 2023 in Hangzhou, while the women's team took home the bronze.

With strong competitors on the international scene for both the men's and women's teams, Indian hockey has the opportunity to recapture its former glory.


Looking back, the history of hockey from its primordial beginnings to its modern international arena represents a timeless tale of resiliency, change, and success. Hockey's growth, from the primitive "hokie" played in Scotland in the sixteenth century to the organised and intensely competitive sport it is today, is a reflection of the centuries-long transformation of nations and communities. India, a country with a long history in hockey, is proof of the sport's enormous influence, having experienced both prolonged periods of hardship and comeback.

The journey of the Indian women's and men's hockey teams through the ups and downs of international play represents the spirit of perseverance and unflinching determination that are fundamental to hockey. Indian hockey continues to write a glorious history and inspire future generations, as seen by its recent victories in Tokyo and Birmingham in addition to its historic triumphs in Amsterdam. The future of Indian hockey is bright and full of potential, with strong competitors on the international scene. It is well-positioned to recapture its past glory and create new athletic records.

Mens Hockey Team Indian Men's Hockey Team