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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

‘PK was very quick, oozed power’ – Tulsidas Balaram

Tulsidas Balaram - one of the Holy Trinity in India's football team that also had PK Banerjee and Chuni Goswami - speaks about their telepathic understanding.

By: Express News Service | Updated: March 21, 2020 9:04:32 am
Tulsidas Balaram – one of the Holy Trinity that also had PK Banerjee and Chuni Goswami (Twitter/EastBengal)

by Tulsidas Balaram

We had a long association – PK Banerjee, Chuni Goswami and I. PK first played for India in the 1955 Quadrangular Tournament in Dacca. I made my debut in the 1956 Olympics. We played together till 1962, for India and Bengal in the Santosh Trophy. After Railways started playing the Santosh Trophy in 1962, Pradip had to turn up for his employer.

On the pitch, our understanding was telepathic. Off it, we were great friends despite playing for different clubs. PK played for Eastern Railway, Chuni Goswami was a Mohun Bagan man through and through and I plied my trade for East Bengal.

But such was our understanding on the pitch, when we played together, that we always had the right pass or the right ball for each other. Also, we were always totally selfless in our approach, never allowing our personal egos to get the better of the situation. If I had a 99 per cent chance to score a goal, while PK or Chuni had 100 per cent, I always fed them. They, too, always returned the favour.

PK was a class act. As a right out, nobody could ever come even close to him as far as Indian football is concerned. He was very quick and oozed power and physicality. He had the ability to dribble past the defenders even on a dead run. He was very strong in the air also.

READ | PK Banerjee, the Prince Charming of Indian football, departs

Not for nothing that people still consider us as the benchmark in Indian football. At a time when India were the best in Asian football and a force to be reckoned with in the Olympics, we were the undroppables – PK, Chuni, Jarnail Singh, and I were the first four names on the team-sheet. In 1962, when PK went to play for Railways in the Santosh Trophy, both me and Chuni felt that without him our Bengal team was incomplete, that we were missing someone irreplaceable.

In the 1960 Rome Olympics, we were in a tough group, alongside Hungary, France and Peru. Our first match was against the mighty Hungarians (of the Nandor Hidegkuti, Jozsef Bozsik, Sandor Kocsis and Zoltan Czibor vintage) and the predicted scoreline was 10 or 12 goals in their favour. But we had a fantastic coach in Abdul Rahim.

He was great at analysing the opponents. We were outplayed in the first-half, prisoners of our inferiority complex. But when Rahim saab gave us a clear plan for the second half, we actually dominated them. We lost the game, but the Italian media, the world football media to be precise, came up with the headline: ‘Another football power is rising, India’. India probably had only one reporter covering the 1960 Olympics.

READ | Stories from a storied career: PK’s Tales

Suddenly, the French started to take an interest in Indian football. Rahim saab was flooded with interview requests. Against France, we probably dished out the best performance by an Indian football team ever. PK was magnificent. He scored a goal from my assist, though France later equalised. It was a team performance. Collectively we were outstanding. The world football fraternity agreed that India would be a dominant force in the near future. Alas, our football gradually went into a terminal decline.

I have an interesting story to share with regards to the 1962 Asian Games, where we won the gold medal. PK was the reason why I played in the tournament. We had a six-week pre-Asiad training camp at Hyderabad. The selection trials were also held there. After the final selection, we came to Calcutta, our departure point for Jakarta. I was down with the flu and was feeling very weak. I felt I would be useless and shouldn’t go. A standby should be picked instead.

I sent a message to the All India Football Federation. Pankaj Gupta, a founding member and one of the top bosses at the AIFF, held a meeting with Rahim saab, PK and Chuni about what to do, whether we should pick a standby in place of Balaram. At the meeting, PK said: “Balaram is sick. Even if he is dead, we would take his dead body to Jakarta. We need him for the team. Put him into the plane.” Chuni, who was the captain, agreed. But PK took the initiative. So you can understand the fellow feeling that we had.

FROM THE ARCHIVES | Second homecoming for Class of 1956

All of us were one-club men, because we valued loyalty. People speak about PK never playing for Mohun Bagan, East Bengal or Mohammedan Sporting and still had such an exceptional international career.

But what people forget is that Eastern Railway that time used to boast of four-five Olympians. Beyond them, they also had some fine players like Dinu Das who couldn’t make the cut because there was no vacancy in the Indian team. They were equally good but because we were there, they missed out.

After retiring as a footballer, Pradip became a very successful coach, because he was technically very sound, had a good understanding of the game and his game-reading was very good. His wards idolised him and PK, because he was always very caring, had the respect and support of his players. Pradip left us today, but as long as Indian football will exist, he will be remembered. We will always remain as the fabled ‘Three Musketeers’.

Tulsidas Balaram was an East Bengal and India forward, who with PK Banerjee and Chuni Goswami formed the Holy Trinity.(As told to Shamik Chakrabarty)

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