Indian football lost an absolute gem on 30th April 2020. Within last 40 days we lost two of the greatest Indian footballers of the Golden era (1950s & 1960s), 20th March 2020 PK Banerjee left us and with Chuni da also leaves us in the middle of the pandemic means we fans of Indian football are going through a terrible time of sadness and grief.
Due to covid-19 lockdown millions of fans couldn’t say final goodbye to these two legends of Indian football and nothing is more worrying for fans to remain home without having a final glimpse of our stars who have inspired generations of Indians.
Submial Goswami, popularly known by his nickname Chuni Goswami. He was a multi-talented, versatile, charismatic, perfectionist, skillful, intelligent, and a man with a class who killed many defenders with his sublime fainting, dribbling, passing and finishing skills on the pitch. Chuni da was one who reached to the status of stardom no other footballers in India reached till date.
His biggest achievement for India was a Gold Medal winning performance at 1962 Jakarta Asian Games under his captaincy India defeated Korea Republic in the final. He was the greatest footballer India has ever seen, not because he won the Gold Medal but because he elevated the hope and aspirations of millions through his all-round performances on and off the pitch consistently. Not to forget he was declared the best attacker of Asia in 1962. No other Indian player has reached that stage till date and that were his level. Wish we had the footage of the Golden Boy to showcase his mesmerizing display.
Padmashri recipient Chuni Goswami was someone who exhibited exemplary actions time and again, he was one who controlled himself and his fan following was from across the strata, who’s who of India were part of his admirers. He was the original Superstar of Indian football and it is difficult to find the right word to describe his contributions to Indian football. He explicitly stated a few times, there won’t be any other Chuni Goswami in India and he always maintained India would require skillful players to achieve something like his generation achieved in football.
Chuni da never played for any other club except Mohun Bagan, he was a one club man for his entire life. Even though there was an opportunity for a Tottenham Hotspur trial in 1962, at his peak, but he refused to leave Mohun Bagan, such was his loyalty, commitment and dedication towards Mohun Bagan. He had a special place for India’s oldest club in his heart, as he believed, whatever he achieved in football was because of the opportunity provided to him by Kolkata giant at his young age. From 1946 to 1968, for 22 years, till his retirement, he remained with his first club.
Mohun Bagan AC won 31 trophies including many league titles with Chuni da as vital part of the team and he scored 200 goals as a first team player for the Mariners. In 2005 legendary Chuni Goswami was awarded with Mohun Bagan Ratna, highest club award acknowledging his overall contribution towards football and Mohun Bagan FC.
In 1963 Chuni da received India’s highest sporting award, Arjuna Award and in 1964 India finished runner up in the Asian Cup in Tel Aviv, the last and the only top two finish in the continental championship for India till date. At the age of 27 he retired from International football and no one could pressure him to change his decision, even though many famous personalities made a request to him.
Chuni Goswami was also an accomplished cricketer, taking Bengal to Ranji Trophy finals in 1972 not as an ordinary player, but with credible performances both with bat and bowl. He represented School nationals and inter-university competitions in cricket. There was one incidence where he flew from Delhi to home after playing a Durand Cup and took a next morning flight to play in a Ranji Trophy Cricket match. Chuni da retired from football at the end of 1967 season to fully focus on his Cricket career and his first class cricket career (46 matches, 1592 runs with a century and 7 half centuries, and 47 wickets) stats highlights he was not an ordinary player but he could have played a Test Cricket for India if he was a bit lucky with selection.
He is a rare Indian sportsperson who easily fits in the exclusive company of famous global sports personalities like Jhonti Rhodes, Michael Jordan, Fred Perry, Marion Jones, Ray Lindwall, etc. who all competed in dual sports.
His popularity was such State Bank of India took out an advertisement in major dailies announcing Chuni Goswami joins SBI in 1960. He was the darling of the masses and the poster boy of Indian football who got featured in one Bengali movie.
Chuni da, along with PK Banerjee and Tulsidas Balaram, were named “Holy Trinity” because these three formed the deadliest attacking gems of Indian football who could break any rival defenses with ease. The Olympian Chuni da scored 9 goals in his 30 ‘A’ International matches for India.
He didn’t follow his strike partner late PK da to become a coach after retirement, but remained relevant through his active involvement in football through Mohun Bagan and other social commitments except joining as the first Technical Director of Tata Football Academy in 1986 where he built a great foundation for TFA to produce some great talents for the Indian national team. After he left TFA in 1989 he was engaged by AIFF as Team Manager of Indian national team in the 90s for a brief period.
In the last 3 decades, he was often quizzed why India is not doing well at the international level, his simple and only answer was that we do not have a group of players with skills to beat the rivals.
With his departure, we have lost an achiever, role model, influencer and a pride of India who was not less than a demigod figure in Indian football. He was equal to Dhoni or Virat of football in India. In 2020 itself Indian Postal Department brought out a commemorative stamp to celebrate his 82nd birthday in January 2020 and he was also a Sheriff of Kolkata, the city of joy in 2005.
He has left us with a legacy which India will remain indebted. What is important is to keep his legacy alive and he continues to inspire generations to come. Whatever he has done in life, was done with a purpose and with absolute sincerity, honesty and clarity. He could have given so much back to Indian football had he got pulled into the administration of football in India.
He was one who could never bulldoze to enter anywhere, and he was also one who could never make any demand or blackmail to get any position of influence. He lived his life with dignity, discipline and remained loyal to his commitments. He was a man with a golden touch and who knows had he touched Indian football as a philosopher, guide, administrator, strategist, thinker, etc he could have brought back the golden days of Indian football by now.
India should consider starting a global standard Centre of Excellence to produce new age elite players and it should be named as Chuni Goswami CoE and it would be a fitting tribute to late Subimal Goswami. As his dream was to see high quality players in India and if any of our big clubs start this project, then it would certainly help the cause of Indian football.
My personal tribute to this true superstar of Indian football, it is difficult for me to find appropriate words to describe his greatness. His loss can’t be filled, but we will continue to celebrate his greatness.
May his soul rest in peace and keep blessing us. You will always stay in our memory as you have given us so many memorable moments to cherish.
Long Live Chuni da. We are missing you.