Chance To End Ti­tle Wait

The New Indian Express - - PLAY - By SS Shree­ku­mar

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?

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