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Sunday, October 25, 2020

Chuni Goswami: Swerve, dribble, shoot… repeat

The gold medal at 1962 Asian Games remains Chuni Goswami's greatest triumph – he scored a brace in the semifinals against South Vietnam that had eight players with French League experience.

Written by Mihir Vasavda | Updated: May 1, 2020 5:37:38 pm
chuni goswami, chuni goswami death, chuni goswami dead, chuni goswami football, chuni goswami records, chuni goswami age, chuni goswami footballer, chuni goswami family, chuni goswami died, football news, sports news Chuni Goswami breathed his last in Kolkata on Thursday. (Source: Twitter/BCCI)

Leader

Despite being a prodigious talent, Syed Abdul Rahim – India’s most successful coach – ignored Goswami for the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. He, however, was named as Calcutta University’s captain and led them to All India Inter-University Championship title, himself scoring the winning goal against Bombay University in the final.

His reputation, domestically, kept on increasing since then and in 1958, he was chosen for the Tokyo Asian Games, where he made his international debut against Burma (now Myanmar). That moment on, he was a regular with the national team until he retired in 1965 having scored 13 goals in 36 international appearances and captaining in 16 of them.

As much as his goals, Goswami will be remembered for leading the national team to unmatched heights. The gold medal at 1962 Asian Games remains his greatest triumph – he scored a brace in the semifinals against South Vietnam that had eight players with French League experience. He also captained the team to a runner-up finish in the 1964 Asian Cup in Israel.

READ | Quick feet, sharp mind: Chuni Goswami passes away

Dribbler

Goswami belonged to a generation of greats. What separated him from the rest, though, was his body swerves and dribbling abilities. Olympian SS Hakeem on recalled a Santosh Trophy match between Services and Bengal, when Goswami was trapped near the corner flag.

Hakeem, who played for Services, thought he could steal the ball away from Goswami with a sliding tackle. But doing that to India’s best dribbler wasn’t going to be easy. Before Hakeem could even move, Goswami wriggled past the defender from the tiniest of spaces and charged towards the box.

His abilities with the ball made him incomparable to any other player of that generation as well as the ones that have followed. He had an aura, so much so that despite not being the most disciplined player, he was often forgiven. Goswami had a reputation of turning up late for the national camps – once, in fact, he turned up a fortnight late for the 1960 Rome Olympics preparatory camp in Hyderabad.

According to football historian Novy Kapadia, when some players raised voices against the preferential treatment given to him, Rahim – the coach – retorted: “Uska maafik ball control karlo, tum bhi fir late aana (control the ball as he does, then you too can come late).”

Loyalist

Goswami was eight when he joined Mohun Bagan. And he never left them since.

Not when arch-rival East Bengal’s general secretary Jyotish Guha, according to the book Barefoot to Boots, tried to lure him by offering to buy the latest Fiat car. Not even when he received an invitation to train with Tottenham Hotspur, who – under Bill Nicholson – had just won the European Cup Winners Cup by beating Atletico Madrid in the final. Not exposed to international club football, Goswami said he did not take the offer seriously because he did ‘not know how good Spurs were.’

So he stayed at Bagan. And led them to great heights in the 15 consecutive years from 1954 to 1968. He scored 200 goals for the Green-and-Maroons and helped them win the Calcutta Football League nine times, the IFA Shield and the Durand Cup five times each, the Rovers Cup thrice, the Dr. HK Mookerjee Shield five times, Babu Kuer Singh Shield thrice, and the Ananda Bazar Centenary Trophy once. He won 14 trophies for Mohun Bagan as captain.

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