Despite having an impact across the globe, Field hockey is probably one of the most underrated sports there is with little mainstream media attention with the strong demands on skill and physical exertion – let alone the excitement and history attached to the sport – largely ignored by those who don’t live and breathe the sport. Here we look at some of the best field hockey players of all time to showcase exactly why the sport deserves more love.
Hassan Sardar, Pakistan
Kicking off our list of the best field hockey players of all time is the legendary Hassan Sardar, who starred for Pakistan back in the eighties. Sardar first found his love of the sport at school where he attended the private Aitchison College Lahore. Within a few years of leaving school, Sardar was leading his national team to glory.
At the back end of 1982 Sardar impressed as Pakistan won Gold at the Asian Games. Two years later, the core of that Asian Games-winning team triumphed in the Los Angeles Olympic Games, which is perhaps their most recognized achievement.
For Sardar though, his most impressive displays actually came in the first tournament where he tasted glory – the 1982 World Cup. Sardar scored Pakistan’s opening goal in the final to set his nation on the way to a 3-1 win over West Germany. It was one of 11 goals Sardar scored in that tournament with his goalscoring seeing him named Player of the Tournament.
Teun de Nooijer, Netherlands
Teun de Nooijer is a monster of a hockey player both in respect of quality and longevity. Born in 1976, de Nooijer experienced success early on in his professional career with a taste of glory at just 20 years old. Notably, that inaugural medal came in the shape of Olympic Gold before quickly being followed up with the 1996 Madras Champions Trophy, which is an honor he won six times!
In all honesty, though, half a dozen Champions Trophy Gold medals barely scrape the surface of what de Nooijer achieved during his playing career. For starters, he and his teammates followed up that 1996 Olympic Gold with the same prize in Sydney four years later – this time beating South Korea.
Between those Olympic wins, Netherlands and de Nooijer proved popular hockey betting odds to be correct, as they triumphed in the 1998 World Cup, which was played on home soil. A European Championship win came in 2007 but de Nooijer’s longevity at the top is showcased by the fact he won Olympic Silver at London 2012 – as well as the fact that he’s Netherlands record appearance maker.
Jamie Dwyer and Fergus Kavanagh, Australia
We’ve opted to pool Australian duo Jamie Dwyer and Fergus Kavanagh together in our look at the best field hockey players of all time owing to the fact so much of their success came together. Dwyer, who is six years Kavanagh’s senior, did arrive on the scene first winning the 2004 Olympics where he scored what proved to be the winning goal to immortalize himself in the history of the sport.
By the next Olympics, Kavanagh had joined Dwyer in the Australia setup. Another Gold at that level never arrived for Dwyer and Co but that doesn’t mean they didn’t enjoy success together with the 2008 and 2012 Games seeing them pick up medals whilst plenty of glory came in other competitions. The duo scooped two Gold medals in the Hockey World Cup triumphing in both 2010 Delhi and 2014 The Hague whilst they also won the 2010 Commonwealth Games – also in Delhi – as well as a number of Champions Trophies.
If we were to rank these two into an order, Dwyer would come above the Irish-born Kavanagh. He obviously has “that moment” from 2004 but his all-round goalscoring, which saw him score 215 goals in 326 games, as well as a few more honors gives him a clear edge in our minds. Kavanagh shouldn’t be underrated though!
Last but not least, we have Dhyan Chand. The Indian legend is probably the greatest field hockey player of all time. Chand starred in the sport during the 1920s and 30s as his goalscoring prowess and all-around ability carried India to three consecutive Olympic Gold medals. The first arrived in 1928 with follow-up successes in 1932 and 1936 respectively.
Chand’s career was much more than three Olympic Golds though. Records are somewhat sketchy given the era he played in but over 1000 goals and an international return of 570 goals in just 185 games (yes, you read that right) is unprecedented and, he’s so highly thought of in his homeland as a result that Chand’s birthday is now celebrated as a dedicated event each year. With that considered, it’s impossible not to regard Chand as one of the best field hockey players of all time.