Chance To End Title Wait
Goa played hosts to the Santosh Trophy for the first time in 1972-73. Those were heady days in Goan soccer with Vasco having entered the final of the Rovers Cup in Bombay in 1971 but lost to Mohun Bagan 0-1 in the final.
Consequently, they bid to host the Santosh Trophy in 1972-73, the most glamorous football tournament at that point of time in Indian soccer. Naturally, expectations were high. But Goa could not progress beyond the semifinal losing to Bengal in the shoot-out. Tamil Nadu defeated the erstwhile Mysore in the other semifinal to set up a title clash. The star-studded Bengal proved too good for the surprise packet but talented TN winning 4-1. Sukalyan Ghosh Dastidar scored twice, Subash Bhowmick once and one was a self-goal, a Mohammed Habib shot going off Gunapandian’s legs. Edwin Ross reduced the margin off a pass from Rajeswaran, who came in place of Johnson.
Bengal had some gifted players like Syed Nayeemuddin, Asoke Banerjee, Mohammed Habib, Shyam Thapa, Subhash Bhowmick, Kajal Dhali, Gautam Sarkar to name a few. It was an international side as all of them had played for the country in some tournament or the other. Tamil Nadu had played hosts on four occasions but had never made it beyond the semifinal stage. But TN’S best showing came in Goa that year. They shocked all football pundits to set up a final clash with Bengal. Players of the class and quality of Gunapandian, the Reserve Bank of India stopper who donned national colours too, Edwin Ross, the speedy and dashing winger along with the man on skates State Bank of India’s Johnson, who unfortunately is no more. Goalkeeper Rajamaniackam too was in fine form.
Soccer thrived in TN then. Madras organised the Vittal Trophy and TFA Shield, which was also moved around to other districts. Trichy had the Rockfort Trophy, Coimbatore the Nehru Trophy, Ooty the Nilgiris Trophy, Madurai the Madura Coats Trophy. Top teams from the country entered the fray giving local sides like ICF (Perambur), Wimco, Southern Railway, RBI, SBI, Indian Bank, MRC (Wellington), the opportunity to match wits and improve their own standards. Naturally, top class players had many platforms to display their talent and came to the fore.
Not since that eventful December evening in Vasco has TN entered the Santosh Trophy final. It is indeed creditable that they have made the final after such a long wait. In recent years, Sabir Pasha, the Mysore boy, and Raman Vijayan in the main kept the TN flag flying and fittingly, Pasha is now the coach.
TN’S long-serving soccer administrator CR Vishwanathan was ecstatic. “I am happy that TN have entered the final. I only wish they win the title, which has eluded them. TN’S contribution to Indian soccer is phenomenal and the state richly deserves the Santosh Trophy,” CRV, as he is known, said. Services have entered the final six times but have won it only once in 196061 defeating Bengal 1-0. Tamil Nadu have a golden opportunity to crown themselves with glory. Will they?