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Avtar Singh Sohal Warrior

 

Avtar Singh Sohal (affectionately known as Tari), now 83, is widely respected as the greatest Kenyan hockey player of all time. His elite hockey career began when he represented British Kenya (Kenya was then a colony of the British Empire) during the Rome Olympic Games of 1960, continuing to play hockey for and captain an independent Kenya at a further 3 Olympic Games: 1964 (Tokyo), 1968 (Mexico) and 1972 (Munich).

Avtar was recently awarded the Order of the Grand Warrior – one of Kenya’s highest orders of merit – during the Jamhuri Day celebrations in December 2021. Earlier this month (March 2022) Avtar was further honoured by his hockey club – Sikh Union in Nairobi – with a permanent exhibition of his hockey memorabilia.

Avtar has retained close ties with British hockey, in particular with the South Asian diaspora community, many of whom emigrated to Britain from Kenya following its independence. Avtar was elected as Vice President of Spencer Hockey Club during the mid-2000s. Even though he is based in Nairobi, Kenya, he is well acquainted with Spencer and always visits and supports them when he is in UK.

 

The Exhibition And Event

On 1 March 2022, Sikh Union Club hosted an impressive event which saw the opening of a dedicated exhibition space in the Sikh Union clubhouse celebrating the lifetime achievements of Avtar Singh Sohal.

The afternoon began with Avtar taking a majestic walk through a guard of honour of raised hockey sticks mounted by former and current Kenyan internationals on the club’s ‘astro’ pitch – which Avtar was instrumental in creating.

View the guard of honour on YouTube by following this link: YouTube | Avtar Singh Sohal guard of honour.

The guest of honour for the event, Cabinet Secretary for Sports & Culture, Amina Mohamed, officially opened the exhibition. The exhibits of hockey memorabilia relating to Avtar’s six decades in hockey include uniforms, trophies, certificates, press cuttings, pins badges, medals and priceless historical photos.

Enjoy a tour of Avtar's lifetime achievements exhibition with organiser Deljinder Singh Mudhar (Del) by following this link: YouTube | Tour of Avtar Singh Sohal's exhibition at Sikh Union Club.

 

Avtar Singh Sohal exhibition 01
     

Avtar Singh Sohal's exhibition at Sikh Union Club, which showcases his
personal memorablia and celebrates his lifetime achievements.

Bottom right: Avtar (Tari) relaxes during a break in proceedings.

     
Avtar Singh Sohal exhibition 02        Avtar Singh Sohal at Sikh Union Club

 

To conclude the event in his honour, Avtar thanked his dear wife Ripudaman Kaur Sohal and his closing statement speaks volumes about the man’s humility and dedication to hockey:

“In a lifetime that has passed by eight swift decades filled with blood, sweat, and tears, I stand here this
evening a very grateful and humbled man as witness for all those who have been a part of my journey.”

Avtar’s exhibition is a dedicated area within the Sikh Union Club’s Mahan Hall of Fame, which celebrates the club’s past achievers across all its participant sports. Several of its inductees now reside in Britain.

The Mahan Hall of Fame was opened by International Hockey Federation (FIH) past president Leandro Negre on 19 September 2016. The Hockey Museum Founder-Trustee and Sikh hockey historian Diljit Singh Bahra (Dil) was instrumental in its creation alongside a great team from the club committee. For his efforts, Dil was made an Honorary Life Member of Sikh Union Club in February 2020.

 

Leandro Negre and Avtar Sohal 01        Leandro Negre and Avtar Sohal 02
     

Avtar Singh Sohal with FIH past president Leandro Negre at the opening of the Sikh Union Hall of Fame in 2016.

Image credits (above and below): Deljinder Singh Mudhar.

  

Personal Reflection

Your author (Tochi Panesar, The Hockey Museum Trustee) considers Avtar (Tari) a firm friend with whom he has spectated at the Rio Olympic Games and the 2018 men’s Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneshwar and is all set to spectate at 2023 men’s Hockey World Cup, also in Bhubaneshwar. Avtar’s enthusiasm for the game, personal drive and tenacity to make things happen is brilliant and infectious.

I am looking forward to the release of his illustrated photobiography which is due to be published later in 2022.

The instigators and drivers of event to commemorate Avtar’s lifetime achievements were the aforementioned Del Mudhar, a very able, hardworking and accomplished young man, and historian Dil Bahra. Both men are a credit to Sikh Union Club and to the international Sikh community, as of course is Avtar Singh Sohal.

 

Biographical Information

Avtar Singh Sohal:

  • Played in four Olympic Games and was captain in the last three – 1960,1964, 1968 and 1972.
  • Captained Kenya in their first ever World Cup in 1971 where they finished fourth, narrowly missing a place in the final.
  • Was Head Coach during the 1984 Olympic Games and a judge at Olympic Games in 1988.
  • Is Kenya’s most decorated and longest-serving hockey captain.
  • Has been awarded the post-nominal letters OLY by the World Olympians Association for taking part in 6 Olympic Games (4 as a player).
  • Has been awarded The order of the Grand Warrior, one of Kenya’s highest orders of merit.
  • Entered the Guinness Book of Records in 1979 for the most international hockey caps.
  • Was awarded the FIH Diploma of Merit in 2000.
  • Was awarded Head of State Commendation by Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki in 2005; and
  • Continues to coach the Sikh Union Club’s juniors – the Tigers.

pdf

Enjoy a fuller biography and career timeline of Avtar Singh Sohal by clicking the PDF icon to the right. The document was compiled by Del Mudher and Dil Bahra.

Alternatively, visit the Sikh’s in Hockey website: Sikhs in Hockey | Captains | Avtar Sohal

 

Tochi Panesar

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