Indian football suffered the huge loss of Subimal ‘Chuni’ Goswami who passed away in April earlier this year. Chuni Goswami was, without a doubt, among the Indian footballing elite and his statistics speak for themselves. He scored 13 goals in 36 matches for the national team while bagging over 200 goals for Mohun Bagan in 15 years at the club. Born in an undivided Bengal in 1938, Goswami was identified as a prodigious talent from a young age, and joined junior Mohun Bagan club when he was just eight years old.
He made his debut for India against Myanmar in 1958 and scored a goal on his debut to mark the start of a journey with the national team which spanned six years and was filled with landmark milestones. In this period he represented India in the Olympics in 1960 where they lost 2-1 to a Hungary side led by future Balon d’Or winner Florian Albert.
A brilliant dribbler and exceptional finisher, Goswami led the side and scored three goals enroute the gold medal in the 1962 Asian Games including a crucial brace in the semi final against Vietnam. His international career came to an end after the Merdeka cup in 1964 where they lost the final by a goal to Burma having finished as runners up in the Asia cup in the same year.
Putting aside his international career, Goswami was a one-club man having played only for The Mariners despite the best efforts of East Bengal secretary JC Guha who offered to buy him a brand new FIAT if he changed loyalties. He was captain of the club when they won three consecutive Durand Cups in a row from 1963. He won the Santosh trophy, India’s most prestigious tournament at the time, three times with Bengal. At the peak of his powers, he even received an offer to play for Tottenham Hotspur who were one of the biggest English clubs at the time. However, Goswami did not know much about English football and didn’t take the offer seriously.
Remarkably, Goswami was also a top cricketer who played for Bengal after his retirement from football in 1968. He lost two Ranji Trophy finals to Mumbai in 1968 and 1972, captaining the side in the latter.
He was the first superstar footballer in the country and had several fans including Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, India’s second President who saw him warming up during a Durand cup final and said “So I see Chunni you have become a permanent feature in these finals.” This incident highlights the respect people had for him, one of India’s first footballing stars.
Chuni da, as he was affectionately called, took Indian football to great heights with sheer determination. A true leader who did not back down regardless of the opponent in front of him. Gone from our sights, but never from our hearts.