Former defender Arun Ghosh, one of the key members of Indian football team of the ‘Golden Era’, still gets goose bumps remembering the gold that the country won in the Jakarta Asian Games in 1962 when the players received support from the Pakistan hockey side.
India defeated South Korea 2-1 in the final to win the summit clash. That was the last gold medal India won in the Asian Games football. India had also won gold in the inaugural Asian Games it hosted in 1951 in New Delhi.
The final match was held on September 4, exactly 58 years ago.
Ghosh, who along with Jarnail Singh and Syed Nayeemuddin had formed a solid defensive trio, said that the entire Indonesia wanted India to lose that final match but Pakistan Hockey Team cheered for them.
“I still feel goosebumps when I go back to that evening of 4th September 1962. The Senayan Main Stadium in Jakarta was jam-packed with a partisan 1,00,000-strong Indonesian crowd cheering for Korea Republic at the top of their voice,” Ghosh said.
“But we had our support too. Any guesses? Strange as it may sound, the Pakistan Hockey team cheered for us. Unbelievable, but true,” he wrote for the All India Football Federation website.
Despite the hostile atmosphere, P K Banerjee gave India the lead before Jarnail Singh doubled it. Jarnail had stitches on his forehead due to an injury in an earlier match and was played as a centre forward in the match.
“There was pin-drop silence at the stadium when we went 2-0 up. Though Korea scored a late goal, goalkeeper Peter (Thangaraj) saw off the danger till the end. The animosity against the Indian continent was so high that no one came to congratulate us even after the match. But, what a night it was for Indian Football!”
Ghosh paid tribute to the celebrated coach Syed Abdul Rahim, who guided India to the fourth place finish in the 1956 Olympics besides the 1962 Asian Games gold.
“Rahim-saab knew his players like the back of his hand. He knew how to bring the best out of a certain player. After Jarnail got injured, he switched me from right-back to centre-back and I lived up to his expectations. Since then, I have always played as a centre-back for the Blue Tigers till I hung my boots.
“His other masterstroke was to bring a heavily bandaged Jarnail Singh back against South Vietnam in the semi-final. But not as a defender, rather as a centre-forward. Everyone got stunned but Jarnail scored in back-to-back games.”
Ghosh, who also played in the 1960 Olympics, said that Rahim was the one who first taught the Indian team the concept of defenders going for attacking.
“When we started to play as a defender, our aim was primarily to clear the ball and avert the danger. But Rahim-saab changed the perception. He taught us ‘Attack starts from the goalkeeper’.
“He taught us the nuances of ground-passing and taking the game forward individually. The entire vantage point was changed and we started to notice the result soon.”
Ghosh, an Arjuna Awardee, also coached the Indian national team in the 1982 Asian Games and served as AIFF Technical Director from 1992 to 1994.