Noble Laureate, T.S.Eliot penned in his famous poem-The Waste Land that “April is the cruelest month”. Indeed, April and the days of the COVID-19 have been especially mournful for Indian football and cricket. Subimal Chuni Goswami, called Chuni da by sportspersons and fans, breathed his last at the age of 82 on April 30, was perhaps the greatest Indian sportsperson.
In him football and cricket stood united. When he was just 8, Chuni da joined the Mohun Bagan junior team. When he turned 16, he was in the senior team. And when he was 20, he played for India. He was captain of Indian Football team in 16 of 36 matches he played. Under him in 1962 Asian Games, the Indian football team won the Gold, the most prized medal in Indian football. At the age of 26, he bid adieu to international football to focus on cricket. He was equally deft in cricket and took 47 wickets in 46 First-Class matches and scored 1,592 runs.
All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel paid his tribute in tweet that another legendary Indian Footballer and a fine first-class cricketer has left us. Sunil Chhetri tweeted, “We’ve lost one of the leading lights of Indian sport today. Not too many can boast of being top-notch in two different sports. You played your part to the fullest, rest well, Chuni sir. Strength to the family”. Besides, Chhetri, among the footballers, Bhaichung Bhutia and I M Vijayan paid homage to Chuni da.
Bhutia called him the first superstar of Indian football and said, “It’s a big loss for Indian football in two-three months. Vijayan said, “It is a very sad day for Indian football. Indian football has lost a genius. He was no doubt one of the greatest ever Indian footballer. He and PK Banerjee were the biggest players we had known in our playing days.” Pradip Kumar Banerjee (23 June 1936 – 20 March 2020) played as a striker and was Captain and later coach of the national team.
BCCI President Sourav Ganguly tweeted, “Just saddened with so many bad news of dear people. The game loses another hero.. RIP Chuni da…An all time great of the game .. Life settles all scores at the end ..You have still won it”.
Cricketing great Sunil Gavaskar said, “First Rishi (Kapoor) and now Chuni da have left us. Both champions and legends in their craft. The world will be the poorer for their departure to the Heavens. RIP.”