My Fundays 27-04-2011
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- Published 27.04.11
Though I was born in Ottapalam, Kerala, in 1934, all my childhood memories are rooted in Mumbai — the city I moved to at the age of one-and-a-half years. I grew up in Matunga. Our house was right opposite the Indian Gymkhana ground and a few steps away from the South Indian Education Society School, which I used to attend.
All sorts of games were played on the Indian Gymkhana ground but I fancied football and basketball most and a little bit of tennis and cricket too. We played for the fun of it and I’d never thought then that I would go on to represent India. We would play football barefoot as we could not afford boots and did not dare ask our parents to buy us a pair. We were injured often but nothing serious happened ever. We would just tie on a couple of bandages and get on with the game.
I used to play in the defence mainly, but with time, took to standing at the goal, and became a goalkeeper by default. Playing basketball also helped hone my skills as height and some other aspects are of vital importance for both sports.
Our school was not sports-oriented but our neighbourhood was very involved. So during our schooldays we pooled in money and formed a football team — Matunga Students — and entered the local league which used to be played at the railway ground in Parel. Our team colours were the same as those of our school uniform, white shirts and khaki pants, so the players normally carried an extra white shirt tucked in their satchels, which they used to don for the matches.
Attending the game sessions was quite an adventure in itself. The last period in school used to be for PT. While the squads marched and did their drills, one by one, we players — and a few fans too — used to slink away and meet up at the railway station to take the train to Parel. Once there, we would change quickly and keep our bags on the sidelines. Our non-playing schoolmates would keep an eye on them. We would plunge straight into the game.
I am happy to recall that though we played with bare feet, we were good enough to beat the well-trained office teams and returned home every time to a heroes’ welcome.
The only real coaching I had in my youth was after I joined Matunga Athletic Club where K.P. Krishnan took me under his wing. Today’s kids enjoy a lot more facilities and opportunities but I would never exchange the time of my youth with anything.