Year in Review 2020, Biggest Sports Stories: Indian football icon Chuni Goswami passes away
Goswami, who remained loyal to Mohun Bagan throughout his playing days and was part of the Indian football team's 'Golden Era' of the 1950s and 1960s, breathed his last on 30 April in Kolkata.
Editor's Note: It's that time of the year already. Every end comes with an opportunity to look back and reflect, and while 2020, by general consensus, was a forgettable affair, sports did manage to conjure some moments of lasting relevance. From Liverpool ending their Premier League title wait to the mighty Indian cricket team crashing like never before in Adelaide to the passing away of some of sports' all-time greats, the field of play, even in a truncated calendar, produced a fair share of shock, surprise, and awe. In Firstpost's latest series, we take a look at some of the biggest sporting moments of 2020.
The year hasn’t been kind to fans of Indian football with the country bidding farewell to two icons of the sport in PK Banerjee and Chuni Goswami — the latter breathing his last in Kolkata on 30 April at the age of 82 after a lengthy bout of poor health.
Goswami, who passed away a little over a month after former India teammate Banerjee’s demise, is most famously remembered for leading the country to a gold medal in the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta, as well as for being a true sporting all-rounder, given his run as a cricketer in addition to his exploits in the ‘beautiful game’.
The 1962 Asiad saw India losing to South Korea in their opening game, but bouncing back in style and going on to defeat the same opponent in the gold medal match. Goswami scored thrice in the tournament, including a brace in the semi-final win over South Vietnam in which he also made an assist.
Born in 1938 in Kishoreganj (present-day Bangladesh), Subimal ‘Chuni’ Goswami made his first appearance for the Indian national team in the 1958 Asiad, scoring on debut against Myanmar (then Burma). His time with the national team overlapped with what is widely considered the ‘Golden Age of Indian Football’, an era in which the team was counted among the strongest in Asia with stars such as Banerjee, Goswami, Tulsidas Balaram, Jarnail Singh in their ranks.
As far as his club career went, Goswami rejected many an offer from competitors and remain loyal to Kolkata football giant Mohun Bagan, whom he had joined at the age of 8, till the end of his playing days. So much so that he even reportedly turned down the offer of a brand new car from the team’s arch-rivals East Bengal, as mentioned in Novy Kapadia’s Barefoot to Boots, as well as an opportunity with Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur.
📽️ Tributes paid to the two 🇮🇳 Football legends - PK Banerjee and Chuni Goswami - who passed away earlier this year 🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/TcmbxiKfA2
— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) November 27, 2020
Such was his love for Bagan that he even refused pay from the club, apparently being content with receiving “a banana and a toast” as compensation for his services.
Goswami captained his club for five seasons and helped the ‘Mariners’ win three Durand Cups and four Kolkata Leagues — both on the trot.
Football wasn’t the only field where he made an impact though. A cricketing all-rounder himself, Goswami served as captain of the Bengal team, scoring 1,592 runs and collecting 47 wickets from 46 first-class appearances, and leading Bengal to two final appearances in the Ranji Trophy. Additionally, he was part of a combined Central and East Zone team that defeated the visiting West Indians by an innings and 44 runs at Indore in December, 1966.
Former India left-arm spinner Dilip Doshi, who represented Bengal under Goswami, credited the latter for bringing in a culture of fitness into cricket.
“Though the trend has changed in recent times, back in those days, footballers were generally far fitter than cricketers. In that sense, Chuni da brought that sense of fitness into our cricket team,” said Doshi.
Goswami, who received the Arjuna Award in 1963 as well as the prestigious Padma Shri award two decades later, served as the Director of the Tata Football Academy and was appointed Sheriff of Kolkata in 2005. The Indian Postal Department honoured the footballer with a commemorative stamp on his birthday this year.
Chuni da left behind a legacy of being one of the most distinguished servants of Indian sport and perhaps the only megastar Indian football has witnessed over the years, a feat that will be very difficult to replicate, but certainly not impossible.
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