Ajaib Matharu

Ajaib Matharu

After passing Cambridge School Certificate in Mwanza, Tanzania young Ajaib came to Kampala and joined The Asian Teacher Training College, Shimoni. He was selected the captain of the college hockey team. The hockey team achieved some excellent victories against local teams and against teacher training colleges in Kenya. In 1958, he started his teaching career at Nakivubo Primary School. He joined Sikh Union Club and soon established in the team. Here he matured and became one of the best players under the coaching of Ajmer Singh. He was selected to play for the Uganda national hockey team in 1959. Uganda other East African teams were introduced to Queen Mother who had come to inaugurate the Lugogo Stadium. For an 18 year old it was like a fairy tale. From then on he was a regular member of the national team.

He was appointed the captain of the Sikh Union hockey team 1965. Under his leadership Sikh Union (later Simba Union) won all local competitions, twice reached the finals of M.R. D’Souza Gold Cup Tournament and won the Panesar Cup. These competitions brought together the best teams in East Africa. He was adjudged as the best full back in both tournaments. In 1966, he was honoured by the Sikh Union Club in recognition of his services to hockey. Later in that year he was appointed the captain of the national team. Under his stewardship, team finished joint winners the Cairo Hockey Festival – this was the team’s first trip outside Uganda. This impressed the hockey personalities who had come to Cairo for World Hockey Conference. He remained the captain of the national hockey team until 1971. During this period, Uganda hockey team did extremely well against all the touring teams from India, Pakistan, Egypt, Cologne University and in the inter-territorial competitions. Ajaib captained the Uganda hockey team that won the Rahim Jivraj Trophy for the first time.

The jewel in the crown was the place Uganda earned take part in the Munich Olympics, after being the runners up All African Hockey Championship held in Lusaka, Zambia. He played for Uganda on 66 occasions and was the captain on 33 of these. There would have been no contest in the choice of the captain if he hadn't been injured three weeks before the departure of the team to the games. He was not even certain to be included in the squad.
In Munich he was called upon to captain the first game against Malaysia as the captain was injured in a friendly against Holland and the vice-captain was a substitute. Ajmer Singh who coached the team was sadly missed as he had to leave Uganda when his post was Africanised. The team was held together by Ajaib, Rajinder, Ajit, Upkar and Kuldip. These were the anchor and hub of the team and the team’s success was due to these players.

He taught at Nakivubo primary School for ten years, last five as a head of Geography and Sports. He was awarded a bursary for a three year full time education to do B.Ed. where he captained and coached the college hockey and badminton teams. He was posted to Old Kampala secondary School to teach Geography and English. Ajaib and the rest of the team were in Munich when President Idi Amin announced the expulsion of Asians from Uganda. The shops and factories were closed and the temples were abandoned. He sent his family to U.K. a

finished joint winners the Cairo Hockey Festival – this was the team’s first trip outside Uganda. This impressed the hockey personalities who had come to Cairo for World Hockey Conference. He remained the captain of the national hockey team until 1971. During this period, Uganda hockey team did extremely well against all the touring teams from India, Pakistan, Egypt, Cologne University and in the inter-territorial competitions. Ajaib captained the Uganda hockey team that won the Rahim Jivraj Trophy for the first time.
The jewel in the crown was the place Uganda earned take part in the Munich Olympics, after being the runners up All African Hockey Championship held in Lusaka, Zambia. He played for Uganda on 66 occasions and was the captain on 33 of these. There would have been no contest in the choice of the captain if he hadn't been injured three weeks before the departure of the team to the games. He was not even certain to be included in the squad.
In Munich he was called upon to captain the first game against Malaysia as the captain was injured in a friendly against Holland and the vice-captain was a substitute. Ajmer Singh who coached the team was sadly missed as he had to leave Uganda when his post was Africanised. The team was held together by Ajaib, Rajinder, Ajit, Upkar and Kuldip. These were the anchor and hub of the team and the team’s success was due to these players.

He taught at Nakivubo primary School for ten years, last five as a head of Geography and Sports. He was awarded a bursary for a three year full time education to do B.Ed. where he captained and coached the college hockey and badminton teams. He was posted to Old Kampala secondary School to teach Geography and English.

Ajaib and the rest of the team were in Munich when President Idi Amin announced the expulsion of Asians from Uganda. The shops and factories were closed and the temples were abandoned. He sent his family to U.K. and stayed on. During this difficult time he with Parmindar Singh Lotay looked after the Singh Sabha Sikh Temple. He left Uganda in April 1973.

In UK, he joined James Graham College of Leeds University. On completion of the two year course he started working at Soar Valley College, Leicester. While at Leeds, he played hockey at Farsley Hockey Club and played an important role to win the club championship for the first time. Within months of teaching at Soar Valley College he started the boys hockey team and the schools hockey league. He set up a summer coaching scheme and coached many youths from the early age of11 and today many of these youths play for clubs. He managed and coached the Leicestershire County Under 14 boys hockey team for 12 years and helped to develop hockey in inner city areas. He coached and managed the city Boys hockey team and won the Millennium Games. He later took the team to compete in the All England Youth Hockey Competition in Southampton. He was made the Honorary Vice President of the Leicestershire Hockey Association for his voluntary services to hockey in Leicestershire.

During his teaching at S. V. College he completed a course in the teaching of English as a second Language and helped the College in the reception classes to improve the English of those boys and girls who had joined the college from the Indian Subcontinent. Ajaib can speak five languages and can read and write three of them. He also completed a course in Social Sciences and Religious Studies with the Open University. He was elected the Education Secretary of the Ramgarhia Sikh Temple and helped to set up the teaching of Gurumukhi to boys and girls. He with his brother Ajmer Singh organised Sikh Sports Festival in Leicester where hockey teams from all over England participated. At present he is Sports Secretary of the Ramgarhia Sikh Temple and organises Sports Festival during Vaisakhi month where youths take part in hockey, badminton, table tennis and athletics competitions.

In his retired life he is still very active. He is over seventy and lives in Leicester England.

BBC Interview link
http://www.bbc.co.uk/asiannetwork/africaweek/africa_memories_ajaib.shtml