New Delhi: Insisting that Dhyan Chand is to hockey what Pele is to football, a host of former Olympians have demanded Bharat Ratna for the legendary centre-forward.
A day before his birthday, celebrated as the National Sports Day, former players like Balbir Singh said the best way to honour the hockey wizard`s memory was to confer the country`s highest civillian honour.
Dhyan Chand, who won three Olympic golds in 1928 (Amsterdam), 1932 (Los Angeles) and 1936 (Berlin), was honoured with Padma Bhushan -- India`s third highest civilian award in 1956.
But according to former Olympians, Dhyan Chand should have got a bigger honour as his contribution to hockey is at par with what Pele and Diego Maradona did for football.
"No India sportsman has contributed as much as Dhyan Chand did to hockey. It is very sad that today we have almost forgotten the contribution of the player, who is no less than Maradona, Pele or Don Bradman," Balbir Singh, who has seen Dhyan Chand in action, told reporters.
Former India custodian, Mir Ranjan Negi rued the decline of Indian hockey over the years and felt the only way to honour Dhyan Chand is to revive the game in the country, which once used to dominate international circuit.