In a heart-warming tribute to his former teammate, Franco Fortunato recalls that “The team that won the Gold Medal in the 1962 Asian Games was a fantastic bunch. But Chuni was above all. He was a treat to watch. He was pure entertainment, a complete package. He was our captain, our darling”.
IMAGE: Chuni Goswami with AIFF chief Praful Patel. Photograph: AIFF Media
World-class footballer and first-class cricketer, Chuni Goswami was more than many things to his former teammate Franco Fortunato, who says the synonym of versatility will forever remain the “golden boy” of Indian football.
Fortunato was a part of the 1962 Asian Games gold medal winning Indian squad that was led admirably by Goswami.
He adorned his former captain, who died on Thursday aged 82, with superlatives of all manner in a column for the All India Football Federation.
He recalled how Goswami saved his equally illustrious teammate PK Banerjee from revered coach Syed Abdul Rahim’s wrath during the 1962 Asian Games.
“Rahim saab was upset with PK, who was not his usual self during the first-half of a match. PK seemed unwell, so much so that he vomited in the dressing room at half-time. Rahim saab was extremely disturbed.”
“‘I have 18 players in my squad. If you are unwell, you need to tell me. I never expected this from you’, the coach thundered,” remembered Fortunato.
Banerjee died 41 days before Goswami breathed his last.
“The entire squad was dumbstruck seeing the coach so furious. But again, Chuni took control. He went up to PK, consoled him, and told Rahim saab: ‘He is our asset. But he is unwell today. He will be back stronger’.
“Rahim saab looked at Chuni, and turned away. Such was Chuni’s personality — he was always undaunted, yet so mature and calm.”
At 80, Fortunato did not tire one bit as he went back to the time when Chuni stood out among equally illustrious colleagues.
He called the 82-year-old Goswami’s death the harshest truth.
“On the field, he was total magic — a complete player. He could dribble, he could shoot, he could pass. His ball control was amazing. He could mesmerize fans and even opponents.
“The team that won the Gold Medal in the 1962 Asian Games was a fantastic bunch. But Chuni was above all. He was a treat to watch. He was pure entertainment, a complete package. He was our captain, our darling,” Fortunato wrote.
Along with the late Banerjee and Tulsidas Balaram, Goswami formed Indian football’s most feared forward line.
“Off the field, Chuni was a true gentleman. He was gentle, extremely well-mannered, and articulate. He was accepted in all circles and could speak on any subject for hours. He could hypnotise audiences, both on and off the field.
“Chuni Goswami was the Golden Boy, and he will remain the Golden Boy of Indian Football forever. Period.”
Fortunato recalled the manner in which Goswami led the Indian team in the 1962 Asian Games.
“He played the captain’s role to perfection. There was no bossing around and he had that uncanny ability to read people’s minds.
“He was in sublime form all throughout the Asian Games. I am often asked to describe him as a player. I can only say – he could score anytime and from anywhere. He was a match-winner. We were lucky to have him.”