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Subimal Chuni Goswami | The story of India's greatest footballer

One who could count India's president as his fan, Chuni Goswami was all that a sportsperson would aspire to be. The captain of the 1962 Asian Games gold medal-winning side, Goswami represented Bengal in first-class cricket too.

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Last updated: 01.05.2020
Chuni Goswami the story of greatest Indian footballer | Sports Social Blog

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Former Indian football captain Chuni Goswami, 82, passed away in a private hospital in Kolkata on Thursday after a prolonged illness. The captain of the 1962 Asian Games gold medal-winning side, Goswami represented Bengal in first-class cricket too. 


Over the last few months, he was suffering from underlying ailments with sugar, prostate, and nerve problems. His family confirmed that he was admitted to a city hospital earlier in the day and breathed his last at 5 pm after cardiac arrest. 


In pic: Chuni Goswami with Pele

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A strapping six-footer with a lithe body, the last gold-medal-winning captain, an Olympian, and a disguised cricket captain, who finds a mention in Sir Gary Sobers' memoir and had a fan in one of India's greatest President till date. Chuni Goswami or Chuni da, was of the stuff that sporting dreams are made of. Let's start with the very beginning:


Where it all began:


Subimal 'Chuni' Goswami provided anthesis to common perception about Indian sportsperson and their rags to riches story. In fact, he was quite the opposite. Born in an upper-middle-class family in Kishoreganj, then a part of United Bengal (now in Bangladesh). He stayed all his life in South-Kolkata's Jodhpur Park. As they call it, he was a Calcutta University 'Blue' (those who played both cricket and football). 


Football: his first love:


He was a center-forward (or right-in in the 1960s) but had an immaculate positioning sense. His dodging was at a different level altogether. And he had the ability to shock the opposition defence with some sprints down the line. He played in the hole behind Tulsidas Balaram, who was the forward. In the time where there was no concept of 'false nine' in football, he was playing in that position by late SA Rahim. 


In pic: Goswami with some of his medals and trophies


"My friend Chuni had everything. Right from dribbling, shooting, sprinting to a powerful head and positional sense" late PK Banerjee had said on various platforms. The complement from one legend to another was the best he could have got. The front three: Tulsidas, Banerjee and Chunni chipped in 40 out of the 56 goals that India scored between 1957-64. He quit international football after the Merdeka Cup in 1964. Only after India finished runner-ups in the Asian Cup earlier that year. Legend has it that when Goswami announced his international retirement in 1964, two of his fans met him and requested him to change his decision. The two gentlemen in question were Dilip Kumar and Pran-- the two Bollywood icons who could never miss a match when Goswami played at the Cooperage. 


The only club that Goswami played for is Mohun Bagan. Joined as an 8-year-old kid in 1946, he played until his retirement in 1968 at the age of 30 years. With his good looks and charm, he was a crowd-puller for Mohun Bagan. Saying no to European giants Tottenham, Goswami's love for Mohun Bagan was immense. But as fate would have it, he marked off for an incredible journey elsewhere, his second love. 


The next chapter:


Goswami was also adept at Tennis and was a regular to the South Club Courts. He also had a stint in carrom, the board game. But if there was one sport that Goswami aced after football, it was cricket. Although he used to play some cricket matches in the past, Goswami took cricket more seriously after his football career. He played 46 first-class matches for Bengal and led them to two Ranji Trophy finals. 


"His will to fight was infectious and we learned so much about fitness from him," said former India left-arm spinner Dilip Joshi. He took an 8-wicket-haul for the combined zonal team against Gary Sobers' West Indies team. During that match, Goswami back-pedaled 25 yards to take a catch that earned plaudits from Sobers himself, who termed it as exceptional for a cricketer from the subcontinent. To this, the ever-smiling Goswami said "Sobers didn't know I was an international footballer. Back-pedaling 25 yards is no big deal." 


In pic: Chinu Goswami with Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan


Radhakrishnan as his fan:


He could count among his fans Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, India's second president. Watching him warm-up before a game in the Durand Cup final, Radhakrishnan said: so I see Chuni again. You have become a permanent feature in the finals." 


And the story continues:


Such was Goswami's star power that a story abounds in Kolkata maidans that a section of the crowd left the Mohun Bagan game midway to see him in an office league game. This was when Goswami had long retired from football. He never coached at the club or country-level even though he was late Russi Modi's first choice to become the director of Indian football's biggest nursery-- The Tata Football Academy(TFA). 


In pic: When the postal department issued a stamp in his honor


He settled in Kolkata, wrote insightful columns on Indian football, enjoyed his tennis at the South Club, and loved his scotch. He was an Arjuna and Padma Shri awardee. Also, the postal department issued a stamp in his honor on 15 January, this year. He was in a league of his own-- an all-rounder in the truest form.


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