Chuni Goswami, captain of the 1962 Asian Games football gold medal winning India team, died on after a heart attack on Thursday at a nursing home near his residence in south Calcutta. He was 82 and is survived by wife Basanti and son Sudipto.
Goswami’s death comes a little over one month after former India teammate PK Banerjee’s passing. Banerjee, Goswami and Tulsidas Balaram were part of a famous India forwardline which scored nine of India’s 11 goals on way to the Asian Games gold medal in Jakarta.
India won 12 of the 16 games they played together. All of them came between 1958 and 1962; the trio scoring 20 of India’s 36 goals in that period. Goswami, who played inside-left in a five-forward formation, scored seven of those goals.
Of wiry build, Goswami had remarkable ball control and could dribble his way out of most situations. Rival defenders would be exhorted by their coaches to look at the ball and never at Goswami’s legs for they would then have no hope of getting the ball. And for a player that lean, Goswami could pack a punch. Goswami’s Mohun Bagan and India teammate Jarnail Singh called him an artist.
Known to be a tough taskmaster, the famous India coach Syed Rahim had a soft spot for Goswami. Once, Goswami joined an India camp late and a player pointed that out to Rahim. “Play like him and I will let you join late too,” Rahim said.
Goswami debuted for India against Myanmar in the 1958 Asian Games, scoring in his first match. He played international football till 1964 netting 13 goals in 36 games. In that time, India played the 1960 Olympics where they narrowly lost to a heavyweight Hungary team that had Florian Albert — European Player of the Year in 1967 — and players from top clubs such as Ferencvaros and Honved.
Two years later, Goswami led India to the Asian Games gold. Goswami scored three goals in the campaign including a brace in the semi-finals as India beat South Vietnam 3-2. The other goal in the semi-final came from Singh with Goswami providing the final pass.
He quit international football after the Merdeka Cup in 1964 and after India finished runners-up in the Asian Cup that year.
Goswami was a pin-up in Indian sport much before the term became popular. He could count among his fans Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, India’s second President. Seeing him warm-up before a Durand Cup final, where the President was the chief guest, Radhakrishnan said: So, I see Chuni again. You seem to have become a permanent feature in the finals.”
This was when Mohun Bagan — the only club Goswami played for, starting as a junior in 1946 and retiring in 1968 — won the Durand Cup for three seasons in a row, from 1963. Goswami scored 200 goals for Mohun Bagan — many of them from the final pass of outside-left Arumainayagam with whom he had great understanding — after joining the senior team in 1954. He also won three Santosh Trophy titles for Bengal.