Chuni Goswami, The Man Who Represented India In Football And Bengal In Cricket
Ask the modern football fan in India about Chuni Goswami, well, the odds are that he or she will stare at you with a blank face. To be brutally honest, one cannot blame the modern fan in this matter. In fact those of us who grew up in the 1990s heard of him from our parents. The odds are that we will never tell our children about the good old days of Indian football.
So who was Chuni? Well before Sunil Chhetri there was a certain gentleman named Bhaichung Bhutia and before Bhutia it was Chuni. Part of the legendary sides that finished 4th in the 1956 Olympics and won the 1962 Asian Games, he was that player which would India on the map when it came to the beautiful game.
He made his debut as an 18-year-old in the 1956 Olympics and India beat China 1-0 in that clash. It was under his captaincy that we would later go on to win the Asian Games and finish as finalists in the 1964 Asia Cup. Between 1956 to 1964 he scored 11 times in 43 games while as per FIFA statistics he has 9 goals in 32 appearances. But his club career was even more interesting.
Chuni played for Mohun Bagan all his life. In fact it is believed he once got an offer from Tottenham Hotspur but opted not to go. Now that is something. From 1946 to 1954 he was part of the junior squad and then stayed with the senior team till he retired in 1968. He captained Mohun Bagan from 1960 to 1964. Player like him lit up the traditional rivalry with East Bengal. Interestingly he was from a family with roots on the other side of Bengal which would ultimately become Bangladesh. The reason that it is significant is because the whole basis for the rivalry was the this side vs that side of the border conflict.
But hold on, there is more to Chuni than just his footballing skills. The man also played cricket for Bengal for over a decade. No, it is not a joke. As his career with the national football team ended, he took up First Class cricket and represented Bengal as an all-rounder, once even making it to the Ranji final.
His legacy in the beautiful game is one that few Indian footballers can match up to. In fact he is regarded as one of the best players of his era. No doubt had he been born in a country where the game got importance, with his talent, he would have been an all-time great. Not that he is any less of a legend right now. What he has done for Indian football is second to none.