Indian football legend and Olympian Chuni Goswami no more

The former captain of the national team passed away following a cardiac arrest.

By Naveen Peter ·

One of Indian football’s iconic names and former Olympian Subimal ‘Chuni’ Goswami breathed his last on Thursday in Kolkata.

The 82-year-old veteran footballer, who suffered a cardiac arrest, is survived by his wife Basanti and son Sudipto.

The Indian great was one of the rare talents who succeeded in not one but two sports at the highest level -- football and cricket.

Chuni Goswami started his footballing career in 1946 with Mohun Bagan’s junior team, graduating to the senior team in the coming years and eventually hanging up his boots in 1968 while still wearing the Green and Maroon.

Meanwhile, his cricketing sojourn started in 1962 when he turned out for Bengal in the Ranji Trophy as an all-rounder. The talented Kolkata man played 46 First-Class matches for Bengal which included him leading the team to the Ranji Trophy final in 1972.

Though Chuni Goswami never got to play cricket for the national team, he did make an impression in a practice match against the Gary Sobers-led West Indies side during the 1966-67 season.

The right-arm medium pacer would take eight wickets in the match, that included a five-wicket haul in the first innings, as the Windies lost their tour game.

The footballing genius, Chuni Goswami

While cricket always remained a passion for Chuni Goswami, it was football that took him places and made him one of the biggest names in the country. 

“Goswami was arguably the finest ballplayer India has ever produced. At his prime in 1960-64, his balance, silky dribbling skills, slick ball control and shrewd passing, made him a household name,” Novy Kapadia, one of the notable voices on Indian football would say describing the talented striker in one of his recent columns for The Week.

“His delectable body swerves were a delight to watch and ultimately set him apart from other greats of his era. Ex-international and renowned coach Subhash Bhowmick has always maintained that Goswami could dribble as well as Ronaldinho or Robinho or any of the great Brazilians.”

Having impressed many with his skills at the Calcutta maidan (ground), a national team call-up was not far for Chuni Goswami. 

And though the young striker made his way into the national team set-up in 1956, it wasn’t until the 1958 Asian Games that Chuni Goswami established himself as a force to reckon with.

With goals against Burma and Hong Kong, the Indian forward would play an integral role in helping the side finish fourth at the 1958 Asiad in Tokyo, Japan. 

Having learnt from the Asian Games exposure, Chuni Goswami would go on to build on his game before making his maiden Olympic appearance at Rome 1960. 

Coming into the competition at Rome 1960 on the back of their splendid performance four years ago where the Indian football team finished fourth, a lot was expected of the team.

With players like Tulsidas Balram, PK Banerjee, who passed away last month, and Chuni Goswami in the side, the Indian team was expected to challenge the best in the business at Rome 1960. And they didn’t disappoint as they took the fight to the likes of Hungary, France and Peru.

However, Chuni Goswami’s crowning moment would come two years later as he captained the Indian football team to the gold medal at the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta, their second title. 

In 1964, Chuni Goswami would also be the captain and the talisman of the national team that finished second at the AFC Asian Cup, the continental football championship for teams in Asia.

The Indian football hero represented India in 36 official International matches, captaining in 16 of them, and netting 13 goals. He was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1963 and the Padma Shri -- the fourth-highest civilian award in the country -- in 1983.