The skillful genius of Indian football: Chuni Goswami (Obituary)

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Kolkata, April 30 (IANS) His greatest moment came when he led the Indian football team to the 1962 Asian Games gold, but legendary Indian footballer Chuni Goswami will be remembered for his deft skills as a striker and at the same time his all-round cricketing abilities at the first-class level.

At 82, Goswami breathed his last at a private city hospital on Thursday after suffering a cardiac arrest. It only added to the gloom that had shrouded the world at large with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc and also the deaths of veteran actors Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor.

Goswami was suffering from underlying ailments, including sugar, prostrate and nerve problems. But his demise, a month after another Indian football legend P.K. Banerjee left for heavenly abode, brought back memories of his illustrious career not only on the football field, but also on 22-yards and a tennis lawn.

Goswami played 50 matches for India as a footballer from 1956 to 1964. At the club level, Goswami held the distinction of playing for a single club, Mohun Bagan, throughout his career despite numerous offers from other clubs including one reported offer from English football giants Tottenham Hotspur.

Besides winning the 1962 Asian Games gold, India finished runner-up in the 1964 Asia Cup under Goswami.

The charming forward, known for his good looks, serpentine runs and ability to dribble past a maze of defenders, was also an able all-rounder for the Bengal cricket team, twice leading them to the Ranji Trophy final. He was known for his fast in-swingers.

Cricket came to Goswami later, after he had achieved all the accolades in football. But what stood apart was his mastery even in the gentleman’s game where he represented Bengal in 46 matches between 1962 and 1973 and scored 1,592 runs as also taking 47 wickets.

Goswami made his international debut against Burma (now Myanmar) in the Asian Games in Tokyo in 1958. He even scored on debut as India rallied to win 3-2 on the day. He captained India in 16 matches, netting 13 goals.

Besides two editions of the Asian Games, Goswami was also part of India’s Olympic squad in the Rome Olympics in 1960. He also captained India to the final of the AFC Asian Cup in Tel Aviv in 1964 and was part of India’s campaign in the pre-Olympic qualification in 1959 (in Kabul), 1960 (in Kolkata and Jakarta), 1963 (in Colombo as captain), and in 1964 in (Tehran and Calcutta).

Born on January 15, 1938, in Kishoreganj District of undivided Bengal (now in Bangladesh), Goswami joined the Mohun Bagan junior team in 1946 at the age of eight years when he was spotted by Balaidas Chatterjee.

He then moved to the Mohun Bagan senior team in 1954 and continued playing for the Kolkata giants till his retirement in 1968.

During his stay with the club, he skippered the club in five seasons from 1960 to 1964, leading Mohun Bagan to three successive Durand Cup triumphs and four successive Kolkata League wins.

The multi-faceted Goswami was also a club level tennis player. During his time for India, he formed a terrific trio with Tulsidas Balaram and P.K. Banerjee up front.

Goswami was arguably the finest ball player India has ever produced, those who have seen him in full tilt, say. At his prime in 1960-64, his balance, silky dribbling skills, slick ball control and shrewd passing, made him a household name.

Former international and renowned coach Subhash Bhowmick had always maintained that Goswami could dribble as well as Ronaldinho or Robinho or any of the great Brazilians.

Goswami won the Arjuna Award in 1963 and was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri Award in 1983. He served as director of the Tata Football Academy between 1986-1990 and was appointed the Sheriff of Kolkata in 2005.

–IANS

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