Indian football lost its most important icons: Shabbir in Chuni Goswami and PK Banerjee

JAIPUR: former national captain and famous coach Shabbir Ali paid rich tributes to two of the greatest soccer icons: Subimal ‘Chuni’ Goswami and Pradip Kumar Banerjee - who left for his heavenly abode within six weeks. While PK passed away on March 20 at age 83 due to prolonged illness, Chuni suffered cardiac arrest at a Kolkata hospital at age 82 on April 30.

Both P.K. and Chuni formed the golden generation of footballers who together led Team India to a historic gold medal at the 1962 Asian Games and a silver medal at the 1964 Asian Cup.

It is sad that two of the great Indian legends died in 40 days. It is a great loss for the country, since they contributed an immense wealth of experience. ‘Chuni’ da was the most elegant footballer in the country, not only on the field but also off the field. He was a gem of a person and it was a pleasure interacting with him. Her immaculate bandage made an instant statement. He had a class of his own. His cricket skills are well documented. ‘Chuni’ gives the Bengal team captain at the Ranji Trophy and also used to play tennis. He also starred in a couple of Bengali movies. Having such complete quality is quite rare, ”Ali told TOI.

Ali, who captained the Indian team in a memorable joint championship with mighty Iran at the Asian Youth Championship in 1974, expressed his happiness at playing under PK, then coach and manager, at numerous international matches in 1981-82.

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“PK da was the best player and coach of his time. Not playing for the Big 3 (Mohun Bagan, Eastern bengal & Mohammedan Sporting Club) in Kolkata and having an opportunity in the Indian team was something important that time. PK da not only had a chance, but established himself as a super striker. As a coach, he kept the players tension-free and in a good mood with his vocal tonic. He used to bring out the best in a player both during practice and in a game. I was lucky to play with him on the Indian team in 1981 and 1982. I was the team captain in 1981 who participated in international events such as the King's Cup (Bangkok). I also led the team in tournaments in North Korea, PyongYang and Merdeka. India ranked third in the Merdeka match after an 11-year gap. All thanks to the encouragement of PK da ”, recalled Ali.

“PK da was not someone to chop words. When I joined the senior soccer field in 1974 along with other youth team players to Merdeka Football Tournament in Kuala Lumpur, during training in front of all the coaches and players, PK da presented glimpses of the victory of the 1962 Asian Games and how the players (Chuni, Balaram, Jarnail and others) presented a great performance against difficult opponents. He told us that as members of the senior team, our responsibility has increased and that we must deliver and do our best, added Ali.

Remembering the time when you received the Dhyan Chand Award In 2011, Ali said that recognition by ‘Chuni’ da always seemed to him a great honor.

“After I got the Dhyan Chand Award , we met in a Kolkata Police tournament function. Others were also there to wish him, but as he saw me he just came, hugged and congratulated me for getting the award. That was a huge thing coming from him. Chuni da and myself went together to Nowgong, Assam on an invitation from the Chief Minister for a football tournament final in 2012. As we were discussing football, he was telling the dignitaries about the 1962 Asian Games win in the final against all odds. After that he told me that you also did a big thing by becoming joint champion with Iran in 1974,” Ali signed off.