A rampaging pandemic, demise of Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor in successive days was not enough as Indian sports fraternity plunged into a darkness of sorrow upon the news of legendary Indian footballer Chuni Goswami passing away.
A footballer par excellence, Subimal Goswami , fondly known as Chuni Goswami, was a man of many trades. In an era of specific sports, Goswami can truly be heralded as the unified sporting superstar of the century. Leaving aside his footballing masterclass, this embodiment of sporting allrounder stamped his authority on a cricket pitch, on a tennis court as well as in a hockey turf. From winning Asian Games to getting applauded by West Indies great Gary Sobers, this legend has achieved a plethora of accolades which cannot be summed up in words.
Thus we try to uncover few facts you need to know about the “Padmashree” Subimal “Chuni” Goswami.
JAKARTA ASIAN GAMES AND CHUNI GOSWAMI”S TRANSFORMATION TO MEGA STAR
Born in Kishoreganj district of an undivided Bengal,Chuni Goswami led Indian National Football team, went on to conquer 1962 Jakarta Asian Games defeating South Korea in the final, a phenomenon yet to be repeated. Although the lanky, wiry Indian legend failed to score in the final , it was his assist which opened up PK Banerjee to score India’s first goal. A frontline led by Goswami, PK and Tulsidas Balaram was a treat to watch and was regarded as the “Three Musketeers” back in the time. The trio was involved in 9 of the 11 goals on the way to Jakarta glory; 3 of them coming from Goswami in the semis where he single handedly held off South Vietnam. All of the 3 Musketeers came into the scene between 1958 to 1962 and scored 20 of 36 total goals by India during that phase. Chuni Goswami was an inside left of a 5 forward system. Back in the days Rahim saab opted for a 3-2-5 formation where Chuni Goswami was primarily stationed behind Tulsidas Balaram in the hole. While the concept of “False 9” was yet to arrive in the footballing world , Goswami had mastered it to the perfection under the tutelage of legendary Syed Abdul Rahim. Chuni Goswami was duly named “Asia’s Best Striker” after his rampaging form in 1962. His stardom status soon changed from a star to a superstar of Indian Football, arguably a feat achieved by none before him.
CALL UP FROM TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
In 1962 Tottenham Hotspur was one of the biggest football clubs in World Football scenario and was managed by legendary English football player- Bill Nicholson. It didn’t take much time for this legendary club to spot the talent in this budding superstar of Indian Football. As soon as 1962 Asian Games was conquered by India, Chuni Goswami got a call up from the “Spurs” for a trials at London. As much as Chuni enthralled the crowd of Jakarta, people around the globe started taking notice of this wiry built forward who had immaculate control over the ball and insane dribbling skills. His sudden outburst of speed used to stun many a opponents while his volleys were rated as legendary. However a man of such class turned down this opportunity citing “uncertainity” of playing abroad. Mohun Bagan administrator Dhiren Dey was quoted to trigger this uncertainity when he asked Goswami ” What will you do there, staying all alone?” Goswami would continue to play for Mohun Bagan and had no regrets, as he felt Indian Footballers would have gotten more opportunities to play in abroad as they would have costed far lesser than the other European players. Little did he know there would hardly be a player of his stature who could prompt a call up from one of the biggest Premier League side.
LOYALTY FOR MOHUN BAGAN
Chuni Goswami joined Mohun Bagan when he was 8 years old and never left the Mariners ever after. Surprisingly enough, in this professional world of football, he never accepted any payment from Mohun Bagan through out his career. “We got a banana and a peice of toast after every practice in Mohun Bagan, and that was enough for us”- Goswami quoted later on. He led Mohun Bagan to 3 successive Durand Cup triumph starting from 1963 season. He captained the side for straight 5 times from 1960-1965. Legend has it that Chuni Goswami decided to hang up his boot in 1965 Rovers Cup in Mumbai but it was “Pran” and “Dilip Kumar” who requested the maestro to reconsider the decision. Such was his charm! By the time Goswami retired in 1968 he had a record 145 CFL goals and 36 international appearances under his belt. He was later conferred Mohun Bagan Ratna in 2005.
GOSWAMI IN CRICKET
While Indians were demoralised seeing their icon hanging up his footballing boots as early as 30 years; little did they know that the legend has done it to pursue his other passion! As soon as Goswami left football, he focused fully on professional cricket. He led Bengal cricket team to a 1972 Ranji Trophy final. As loyal as Goswami was, he never changed side as he continued to play cricket for Mohun Bagan. Legend has it that Goswami once enthralled a whole Brabourne Stadium crowd by juggling a cricket ball during a break. He also featured in a zonal match against Gary Sobers’ West Indies team in 1967 and took 8 wickets in that match and shocked the Indies skipper. He took one catch, back peddling 25 yards, which enthralled even Gary Sobers who was visibly shocked by the athleticism of an Indian Cricketer. In his cricket career, which spanned up to 1972-73 season, he played 46 first class matches, scoring 1592 runs and took 47 wickets.
During his playing days Chuni Goswami started to work for the State Bank of India and amassed more salary than an IAS officer back in those days. After he left football Chuni Goswami found inspiration in Tennis and Hockey. He started to play hockey and tennis for Mohun Bagan and won a tournament for Mohun Bagan in tennis, partnering Jaydip Mukherjee-an Indian Tennis icon while being a regular in South Club courts. Chuni Goswami was conferred Padma Shri in 1983. Although Goswami never coached a club he held the position of the Director of India’s biggest football nursery- TATA Football Academy. In 2005, Goswami became the “Sheriff of Kolkata” an apolotical position as one of the most prominent citizen for one year. On his 82nd birthday the postal department had issued a stamp in his honour!