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Monday, September 27, 2021

Express Archives: Second homecoming for Class of 1956

53 years after their heroics at the Melbourne Olympics, football veterans relive past glory

Written by Saikat Sarkar |
Updated: March 20, 2020 4:50:21 pm
Chuni Giswami, PK Banerjee and Tulsidas Balaram, the ‘holy trinity of Indian football’ (Source: Twitter @Pshuvan)

(From Express Archives)

It took 53 years for the Indian government to acknowledge the country’s greatest footballing moment—making the last four at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. At a felicitation function here on Monday, however, the bruises seem to have given way to wrinkled smiles with sips of water between tell-tale stories and posing for the media on request.

Despite age catching up with the heroes of yore, the memories from more than half a century back are sharp as ever, and none of the queries regarding November 24-December 5, 1956 went unanswered by the group of 70-year old Olympic veterans. Two of the surviving members — Krishna Pal and Tulsidas Balaram — failed to show up for the felicitation.

PK Banerjee remembered his injuries — “I remained unconscious for nine hours after an injury to my head during our match against Australia. It hit back with a cerebral attack last year” — and the lessons of civility — “We were littering away on the streets in Melbourne. On looking back, I saw a group of girls picking up the papers. This was quite a lesson,” Banerjee added.

Teammate Nikhil Nandy talked about the game, speaking of India’s 4-2 victory over the hosts, and then the 7-1 thrashing that never made it to the official charts. “There was a lot of chatter from the Australian team after our 4-2 victory in the quarter-finals. They questioned our ability and said we just managed to win on that particular day, inviting us for a re-match against the same team on our way back. In Sydney, we silenced them with a 7-1 victory,” remembered Nandy.

READ | PK Banerjee: The one who wore greatness without vanity

Samar Banerjee, the skipper, had some extra, unexpected duties ahead of the very first tie, which, as it turned out, was a smash hit. “Rahim (coach) fell sick and had to be hospitalised soon after our arrival in Australia. I had to coach the team before our first match, which we won,” he said.

READ | ‘No more vocal tonic for Indian football’: PK Banerjee breathes his last

(This article was originally published on February 24, 2009)

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