Luck, I have always maintained, plays a major role in shaping a person’s career in football. I thought about it again the other day while watching the I-League match between Prayag United SC and United Sikkim Football Club. The Calcutta team’s coach, Eelco Schattorie took charge only 24 hours ago but his team won 10-1! The Dutchman has indeed started with a bang.
I am not taking away any credit from Schattorie’s boys, but the Sikkim team’s goalkeepers made the scorers’ task easier. Some of the goals were clearly avoidable. Nevertheless, Ranty Martins emerged the hero with five goals. Like Chima Okorie and Odafe Okolie, the Nigerian striker is a truly great goal getter.
What saddens me is that there is no good Indian goalscorer in any club these days. After IM Vijayan and Bhaichung Bhutia, no one has emerged to take over the mantle. A lot was expected from Sunil Chetri but his consistency level has not reached the desired level.
So much was said about Jeje Lalpekhlua till the last season before he got injured. I, too, was hopeful since I found him physically very strong. However, in the current season, he hasn’t regained his touch. The rest of the Indian strikers are not dependable enough.
Though scoring goals is the ultimate aim in football, it is always difficult to get good strikers. I won’t say during our time we had some great strikers, but things were much better. Sahu Mewalal, of course, would remain the best ever.
He was top scorer in the Calcutta League on four occasions and scored several good goals in international matches, including the historic match-winner against Iran in the 1951 Asian Games final.
However, nothing can beat the achievement of Neville D’Souza. His hat-trick against Australia in the 1956 Olympics is by far the finest display by an Indian in international football. One of his three goals is still etched in my memory. He dribbled the last defender and then the man under the bar. As he delayed taking the shot, the goalkeeper came back to foil him and Neville once again dribbled him to score. It was absolutely incredible!
Earlier, almost every club team in the country had a reasonably good striker. Hyderabad City Police had Zulfiqar, who was famous for scoring in important matches. If I remember correctly, Zulfiqar scored for his team in two Durand Cup finals and one DCM final. Such players are considered extremely valuable in any set up.
Mohammed Habib was another footballer, who always scored in big matches. But then, no one could outdo Inder Singh, in domestic football, at least. His performance in the 1974 Santosh Trophy, which fetched him 23 goals, has become a part of our football folklore. Inder played for around 20 years and scored with unfailing regularity in the club and state level competitions.
There were some like Subhas Bhowmick, who were unstoppable on their days.
I am sorry to say the number of good strikers have dried up in India after the days of Sisir Ghosh, Vijayan and Bhutia. Stopping the clubs from recruiting foreigners, as suggested by some coaches, won’t solve the problem. There are many academies across the world, who give special emphasis on the scoring abilities of the players. India have to do something in the similar lines to overcome the drought.