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regular-article-logo Friday, 21 June 2024

Indian football legend Tulsidas Balaram dies at 86

At 19, he was part of Indian squad which excelled in 1956 Olympic Games

Angshuman Roy Calcutta Published 17.02.23, 04:14 AM
(From left) Chuni Goswami, PK Banerjee and Tulsidas Balaram during an exhibition match.

(From left) Chuni Goswami, PK Banerjee and Tulsidas Balaram during an exhibition match. The Telegraph

Tulsidas Balaram, who, along with the late PK Banerjee and Chuni Goswami, formed one of Indian football’s most famous partnerships, breathed his last here on Thursday afternoon.

An Asian Games gold medallist in Jakarta, 1962, and a two-time Olympian, Balaram was 86.

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He was admitted to a multi-specialty hospital near Salt Lake on December 26 and was being treated for abdominal tuberculosis and chronic kidney disease.

“Despite prolonged treatment in the hospital and the best efforts of a multidisciplinary team of doctors, Balaram passed away at 2.05 pm,” the hospital said in a media statement.

Former India captains PK and Chuni, the other two of the “holy trinity”, passed away in March and April 2020, respectively. A bachelor, Balaram lived away from the humdrum of city life in Uttarpara, Hooghly.

Balaram, comfortable playing both as left-in and left-out, had a breakaway season in 1956. At 19, he was part of the Indian squad which excelled in the 1956 Olympic Games, starred for the Hyderabad team which won the Santosh Trophy and impressed everyone in the Durand Cup turning up for Hyderabad’s City College Old Boys’ Club. “He was simply brilliant in that Durand Cup,” one of Balaram’s close friends recalled.

Jyotish Guha, the then East Bengal secretary, signed him on and the rest as they say is history. During his six-year stay with the red and gold brigade, Balaram scored a jaw-dropping 112 goals. Of those, 63 came in the highly-competitive Calcutta Football League (CFL).

He won a bagful of trophies too with the club. The CFL (1961), IFA Shield (1958,1961), Durand Cup (1960), Rovers Cup (1962) are some of the trophies he made his own. He also had the distinction of winning the CFL and IFA Shield as captain in 1961, when he won the Golden Boot by scoring 23 goals in the local league. He moved to Bengal Nagpur Railway in 1963 and brought home the IFA Shield the same year and the RoversCup a year later.

An Arjuna Award winner at 26, it was baffling that Balaam did not get any of the Padma awards. “Maybe I was not good enough,” he used to say. Balaram also did not like the treatment meted out to him by East Bengal and refused the lifetime achievement award presented by the club in 2010.

Statistics don’t do justice to Balaram — he had only 14 international goals in 34 matches. His ball control, distribution, scoring ability and knack for rising to the occasion when the chips are down made him a legend in his own right. Unfortunately, Balaram called it quits at the prime age of 27 when he was diagnosed with an illness.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF), East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting clubs have condoled Balaram’s demise. The AIFF will observe a three-day mourning period as a mark of respect to this great footballer and a wonderful human being.

Balaram in numbers

■ Tulsidas Balaram was born on October 4, 1936. The 1962 Asian Games gold medal winner played in two Olympic Games —1956 Melbourne and 1960 Rome. In a career spanning 11 years (1956-67), Balaram scored more than 140 goals.

■ He played for East Bengal from 1957-62 and scored 112 goals, out of which 63 came in CFL.

■ Balaram joined BNR in 1963 and stayed till 1967 scoring 15 goals

■ He won the Santosh Trophy four times — Hyderabad once (1956) and Bengal thrice (1958, 1959 and 1962)

■ He played for India from 1956 to 1962 scoring seven goals in competitive matches and as many in friendlies. In the two Olympic Games, he scored once.

Hariprasad Chattopadhyay

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