Kolkata: Former India hockey captain Dhanraj Pillay, on Tuesday, said that the legendary Dhyan Chand should be bestowed with the Bharat Ratna as soon as possible.
"I hope he (Dhyan Chand) is awarded the Bharat Ratna as soon as possible. He was not only a great player, he was a hockey magician. There would have been no controversy had he been given the award by now," Pillay said while receiving East Bengal's highest honour Bharat Gaurav at their 98th Foundation Day celebrations on Tuesday.
Pillay said he learnt the killer instinct in his game from East Bengal.
"East Bengal fought till the end, which was also in my DNA. I followed the likes of Bhaichung Bhutia, Chima Okorie...I met Bhaichung in Malaysia when he was playing at club level," he said.
Pillay said getting Bharat Gaurav feels like getting India's highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna.
"This feels like Bharat Ratna to me. I am overwhelmed that the club has considered me worthy of this award," the former Indian star hockey player said.
"I feel honoured that a club, known for its football, gave this recognition to a hockey player. But we should also remember that East Bengal had a good record in hockey in the 1970s and 1980s."
Pillay is the second hockey player to be conferred with East Bengal's Bharat Gaurav after Leslie Claudius.
"Leslie Claudius is an idol to me and I am really proud that I am getting the award which Claudius got earlier. I can't compare myself with him. He was a genius," Pillay said.
"Claudius helped me a lot during my playing days. When I was out of form he gave me a lot of tips which helped. He was just like a mentor," he said.
Pillay further urged the national hockey team to be consistent before next year's World Cup in Bhubaneswar.
"We have to be consistent in all five matches and can't afford to lose points. In the Hockey World League, we beat Pakistan but lost to Canada and Malaysia. We tend to concede goals in closing stages."
East Bengal also felicitated former India stalwarts Syed Nayeemuddin and Subhas Bhowmick with Lifetime Achievement Awards at the function.
"I completed a circle today," Bhowmick, one of the popular faces of East Bengal, said.