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Kenya’s Tokyo 1964 Olympian, Amar Singh Mangat passes away

by Dil Bahra
4 October 2022

Amar Singh Mangat, who represented Kenya at Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games, died in Calgary, Canada on Wednesday 28 September 2022. He was aged 87.

Amar was born on 26 April 1935 in Nara Moro, Kenya and studied at Government Indian Primary School, Nairobi and the Government Indian High School, Nairobi (later became Duke of Gloucester School in the mid 1950s) He played hockey for his school teams and also played at Sandiford Road Railway Landies Hockey Club.

He joined Sikh Union Club Nairobi, one of the leading Club in Africa at the time in 1953.

He was nominated by the Club for selection for Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games as a centre-forward (All Clubs were asked to nominate players in 1956).

He was selected to represent Nairobi against the touring South African and Rhodesian team in May 1957 and against the England team in 1958.

Also in 1958 he represented the Asian Sports Association and was a member of the team that won the Kenya Cup in 1958.

Amar continued to make in roads in Kenyan hockey by representing Kenya Governor's X1 against India in July 1959; Kenya Hockey Union Presidents X1 v Rhodesia in September 1959; Commissioner for India X1 v Maharaja of Patiala X1 in December 1959.

He was a member of Sikh Union Club's team that won the M R D'Souza Gold Cup for the first time in 1959. The Gold Cup was the Blue Riband of East African Hockey, played in Nairobi during the Easter weekend. With winning the Gold Cup went the title of unofficial East African Champions.

He made it to the last 22 players shortlisted for Tokyo 1960 Olympic Games; this time he was a right inner.

He was selected for Kenya National team at the East African Championships (Rahim Jivraj Trophy) in Zanzibar in July 1962.

He was selected in Kenya's tour of Pakistan in 1962 and earned his first international cap for Kenya when he was selected to play against Olympic and Asian Champions Pakistan in Lahore on 7 December 1962. He played as a right winger.

He captained Sikh Union Club Nairobi in 1963 when the Club won the M R D'Souza Gold Cup for third time. He played in the Gold Cup winning teams on seven occasions (1959; 1962; 1963; 1964; 1965; 1966; 1968).

He continued to play for Sikh Union Club Nairobi for 15 years, helping the Club win the M R D'Souza Gold Cup again; Laton Brothers Cup; Asian Sports Association Cup; Golden Jubilee Kenya Cup; Desmesh Cup; Ujjager Singh Cup; Kishen Singh Cup; Joseph and Sons Shield; Karam Singh/Hira Singh Cup and Nairobi League Championship. During this golden period, Sikh Union Club Nairobi won nearly all the competitions.

He was a member of the Kenya tour of India in April 1964 and selected for Kenya's Team at Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games.  He played as an inside forward and scored three goals at the Olympics, with Kenya finishing sixth, her best position at Olympic Games.

He played in the test series against Pakistan in Kenya in 1965, on Kenya's tour of Europe. This included the 12 Nations Hamburg International tournament in 1966; tour of Zambia in September; the test series against Pakistan in November 1966, and the Pre-Olympic tournament in Lahore in January 1968.

Amar received the accolade of Sikh Union Club Nairobi's Sportsman of the year in 1968. He was made a Life Member of the Club in 1969 for services rendered as a player and administrator. He was presented with the Life Membership Certificate by Mr Charles Mbathi, Chairman of the Kenya Olympic and Commonwealth Games Association during a Hockey event on 6 June 1969.

His last international was also against Pakistan, in Nairobi on 24 March 1968.

He migrated to Canada in July 1969 and took up active role in hockey. He played for the province of Alberta in the National Championships from 1969 to 1972 and became a FIH Umpire in 1976.

He was appointed as a technical officer at the Vancouver 1985 Junior World Cup.

Amar played his hockey both for the Nation and Club at a time when Kenya was a power house in hockey beating Olympic Champions India and Pakistan, playing them both at home and away regularly.

At the time of his death, he was the Oldest Kenyan Hockey Olympian.

TRIBUTES

Avtar Singh Sohal (Tari), Kenya's captain from 1962 - 1972 said "We played hockey both for Sikh Union and Kenya for many years. He was a great friend and we shared many unforgettable memories together. He was a very hard working and pleasant person. I enjoyed being with him and he was a good companion. We will miss him. Our heartfelt condolences to the family and hockey fraternity."

Silu Fernandes, former Kenyan Olympian, now residing in Toronto, Canada had this to say: "Growing up in Nairobi Kenya in the fifty's field hockey, was an integral part of our lives and the passing of stalwart Amar Singh Mangat brings back fond memories of my friend and mentor, a true sportsman both on and off the field. Rest in peace my friend."

Edgar Fernandes, former Kenyan Olympian, now residing in Melbourne, Australia paid this tribute: "He was a very skilful hockey Olympian. I shared many a great moment playing with him. But above all a true gentleman and always had a smile on his face. He will be sadly missed by many, especially his hockey mates. Vale Amar."

Reynold D'Souza, former Kenyan Olympian who resides in UK said "Sad to hear about Amar, I remember him as a teammate in the Kenyan hockey side and on opposing sides in many tournaments. He was a fine sportsman who always gave his best. I offer my sincere condolences to his family at this difficult time."

Norman Dacosta, former hockey correspondent of Daily Nation (Kenya), now residing in Canada, had this to say: "It's hard to believe that dashing right-winger Amar Singh Mangat represented Kenya at only one Olympic Games. One would think he would have been at two or three, but for some reason it was just one.   Amar was a brilliant forward for Nairobi Sikh Union and won several trophies, including the M.R. de Souza Gold Cup, on several occasions for the most dominant field hockey club in East Africa. I covered Amar's exploits on the local and international scene for several years for the Daily Nation, East Africa's most widely read newspaper. Amar, who stood 6-foot, used his height and speed to good use and was a thorn in the defence of many teams. Amar was a gentleman on and off the field and was respected in sporting circles. Amar will be missed by all who played with and against him - a thorough and classy gentleman." 

The funeral will take place on Thursday October 6, 3pm Calgary, Canadian time, at Country Hills Crematorium, Calgary, Canada.

 
 
 
 

Uganda Great Harjeet Kaur Sandhu Davda passes away

by Dil Bahra and Norman Da Costa (Canada)
29 August 2022

Harjeet Kaur Sandhu Davda, the former Uganda Women's Hockey Captain passed away unexpectedly in her sleep in Toronto, Canada on 17 August 2022. She was 78.

Harjeet was born on Nov. 30th, 1943 in Mbarara, Uganda, and moved to Canada in 1972 after the Asians were expelled from the country by President Idi Amin.

Harjeet was a giant of a player who was the centre of attention whether in the colours of her club side, the Kololians, or Uganda's national team.

The Sandhus were hockey's royalty in Uganda. Father Gurbachan Singh played against the prince of hockey Dhyan Chand when India visited Uganda in January 1948. As expected, Gurbachan and his wife Jagir Kaur raised their children on a diet of field hockey that produced five internationals.

Her four brothers were all Uganda hockey internationals. Rajinder Singh Sandhu captained the Uganda team at the Munich 1972 Olympic Games and Amarjit was also in that Olympic team. Hardev and Jasbir also represented Uganda. Rajinder also coached Uganda Women's national squad.

"Harjeet and the Sandhu family left an indelible mark in the history of Uganda hockey,'' said Zulema Colaco D'Souza. Zulema, who was Harjeet's teammate with Kololo and Uganda, was also an exceptional inside-forward who left a mark with her dribbling prowess.

"Harjeet will always be remembered for her dedication, tenacity and determination,'' said Zulema. "She   was responsible for taking Kololo and Uganda to a higher level. I enjoyed a great understanding with Harjeet and when I laid the ball back to her, I knew I should get ready for that through ball,'' added Zulema, who was a star with Poona University before moving to Uganda.

All of the other players on that brilliant Uganda squad in the 1960s were unanimous in their praise for Harjeet's unparalleled contribution to the sport. She was the conductor of the Uganda orchestra, the conduit through which everything flowed.

Harjeet was a driving force off the field as well. Zulema credits her for not only captaining the squad but also organizing overseas trips. In 1968 she led Uganda to the Afro-Asian women's hockey championship in New Delhi where Uganda won silver behind Japan. Uganda defeated Japan 2-0 in a round-robin match but went down 1-0 in the final.

Flora, who played for Entebbe Goan Institute, said friendship was put on the backburner when they met in local competitions but "we were one when we pulled on the Uganda shirt. 

"Harjeet was an incredible player who possessed this phenomenal vision of being able to see the entire field and distribute the ball. She had endless energy and reminded me of a horse. "One moment she was down helping the defence and the next she was up initiating an attack." 

Among those sending their condolences was Kapil Dev, captain of India's first World Cup win. "Harjeet was a great sportswoman," said Dev. "She championed the cause of women's hockey in Uganda and around the world."

Norman Da Costa, who was sports editor of the Daily Nation, Kenya recalls that "one of the many matches covered for the Daily Nation included the East African championships at St. Mary's school in Nairobi when Kenya was expected to romp to victory. But the threesome of Harjeet, Flora and Zulema ran circles around Kenya for a resounding 3-1 victory with Flora accounting for all three goals.

Harjeet was perpetually in motion and Nancy called her fearless. "I played with men and women and Harjeet could hit that ball as hard as some men and she could deliver the ball on the run.

"The beauty of being on the field with her is that she could always make an opening and set you away with those brilliant flicks,'' added Nancy. "We developed an understanding and knew exactly where she would pass the ball. She was amazing,'' added Nancy.

She emigrated to Canada in 1972 when the Indians were expelled from Uganda by President Idi Amin. In 2013 when the Sikhs celebrated their 100th anniversary of being in Uganda she was recognized as one of the eight most important Sikhs over that period.

She leaves behind her husband Pranjivan Davda, a former Uganda Cricket captain and a classy opening batsman.