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Legendary Subimal ‘Chuni’ Goswami – the ‘gem’ of Indian Football who was also a cricketer of considerable merit

Indian Football legend Chuni Goswami passed away in Kolkata at the age of 82 after a prolonged illness. He was admitted to a private hospital where he breathed his last. Apart from Football, Goswami, had also represented Bengal in first-class cricket tournaments.

Chuni Goswami- The Leader

Subimal ‘Chuni’ Goswami died a little over one month after his former India teammate PK Banerjee breathed his last. Chuni, PK and Balaram- the famous ‘forward’ trio- brought the most famous victory of Indian Football when they scored 9 of India’s 11 goals on way to the Asian Games gold medal in Jakarta in 1962.

The trio won 12 of the 16 games they played together for India. They together scored 20 of India’s 36 goals in that period. Chuni Goswami scored 7 of those goals.

Goswami made his international debut for India in 1956 during the team’s 1-0 victory over the Chinese Olympic team. He played 50 international matches for India including the Olympics, Asian Games, Asia Cup and Merdeka Cup. Apart from leading the India team that won gold in the 1962 Asian Games, he also captained the side during their silver-winning performance in the 1964 Asia Cup in Tel Aviv and in the Merdeka Cup.

Chuni Goswami- The Mariner who never opted for another club

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 8 years when he was spotted by Balaidas Chatterjee. He was groomed thoroughly through youth football and then graduated to the senior team in 1954 at the age of 16.

Chuni Goswami played for Mohun Bagan throughout his sporting career. He captained the club in 5 seasons from 1960 to 1964. Goswami holds the distinction of leading his side Mohun Bagan to three successive Durand Cup triumphs and four successive Kolkata League wins. By 1968, he had won every major domestic trophy with Mohun Bagan, including the Rovers Cup and IFA Shield.

A popular anecdote runs that once East Bengal’s general secretary Jyotish Guha offered to buy him the new Fiat car which had come in the market in the 1960s. However, Goswami refused and stayed with his first love Mohun Bagan. It is well-known that “Chuni-(Sailen)Manna do not take money to play for Mohun Bagan. It was a matter of pride for us.”

Chuni Goswami- The Glamorous Forward

Chuni Goswami belonged to a class of his own. With serpentine dribbling skills and slick ball control, Goswami was a charming forward. Ex-international player and renowned coach Subhash Bhowmick once said that Goswami could dribble as well as Ronaldinho or Robinho or any of the great Brazilians.

Goswami’s delectable body swerves deceived the defenders. His ability to find space in small areas made him a delightful watch. During his early years in Indian team, Goswami had to balance the demands of his job and the national team. The otherwise tough coach S.A. Rahim had a soft corner for Goswami. So when some members of the team objected to his late coming to practices, he retorted, Uska maafik ball control karlo, tum bhi fir late aana”.

After India won gold under his captaincy at the Jakarta Asiad, Tottenham Hotspur got in touch with him and invited him for a trial. “In the end, though, I did not travel to England for the trial. There was too much of an uncertainty in choosing a career abroad. I was captain of Mohun Bagan, had a good job. My family was also tolerably well-off. The supporters here loved me. Dhiren-da told me: ‘What will you do there, staying all alone?’ So I did not go,” Chuni Goswami said.

Chuni Goswami- The Formidable Cricketer

Chuni Goswami bid adieu to international football in 1964. He was only 27 then. But his sporting career was not over. Goswami concentrated on Cricket after his retirement from Football. He represented Bengal in 46 matches between 1962 and 1973 and scored 1,592 runs also took 47 wickets.

A gentle medium in-swing bowler, he was one of the two bowlers, who plotted the historic innings defeat of Gary Sobers’ West Indies by the combined Central and East Zone team under Hanumant Singh in Indore. He remembered, “Though Sobers wasn’t playing, it was a strong line-up featuring Rohan Kanhai, Conrad Hunt and Basil Butcher. I took five wickets in an innings including that of Kanhai, and eight in the match. I also scored some runs against the likes of Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith. We won by an innings and 10 runs. I also took two outstanding catches. The one I took running from mid-on to deep square leg has been mentioned by Sobers in his book.” [The Telegraph, 29/07/2012]

Representing Bengal, he fearlessly scored 40+ in a Ranji Trophy match facing Roy Gilchrist who played for Hyderabad. While describing himself as a cricketer, Goswami said, “I am that bits-and-pieces cricketer. I couldn’t bat like Sachin Tendulkar or bowl like Kapil Dev. At best, I could field like Eknath Solkar. But I made the most of my limited strengths. That’s how I became an automatic choice for Bengal and the combined zone.”

Chuni Goswami- A die-hard sportsman

Goswami was also a decent hockey player who played a match for the Mohun Bagan hockey team. After retiring from Cricket, he played Lawn Tennis at Kolkata’s famed South Club. For his sporting achievements, Chuni Goswami won the Arjuna Award in 1963 and the Padma Shri award in 1983. In 2005, Mohun Bagan coronated him as Mohun Bagan Ratna– the highest honour in the club.

The skillful genius was suffering from underlying ailments including sugar, prostrate and nerve problems. He died  on 30th April, 2020 after a cardiac arrest.

About Poulomi Kundu

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