Legendary Indian footballer Tulsidas Balaram, an Asian Games gold medallist and Olympian, died at the age of 85 on Thursday, the All India Football Federation said.
Balaram had been hospitalised towards the end of last year and was receiving treatment for a urinary infection and abdominal distension, according to PTI.
Tulsidas Balaram: One of Indian football’s finest strikers with an uncompromising sense of propriety
Balaram is known for being a part of one of India’s most glorious striking trios along with Chuni Goswami and PK Banerjee in the 1950s and ‘60s.
He was one of the key architects of India’s historic 1962 Asian Games gold medal triumph and was also a member of the Indian team that participated in the 1960 Rome Olympics and 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
Born on October 4, 1936, Balaram mostly played as a centre-forward or as a left-winger. He made his senior international debut in 1956, against Yugoslavia at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, but had to retire at the young age of 27 in 1963 due to lung infection. He played 36 international games and scored 10 goals.
A recipient of the Arjuna Award in 1962, Balaram scored two goals in India’s historic Asian Games campaign in Jakarta that year.
In their tribute, AIFF said “his overall impact on Indian Football as an international player cannot be judged by mere statistics. Balaram was simply unstoppable during his heydays, even at the highest level of international football. The famed Hungary defence failed to stop him in the 1960 Rome Olympics. His ball control, distribution, scoring prowess and ability to rise to the occasion in difficult situations made him a part of Indian soccer folklore. Balaram’s biggest trademark is his ingrained, uncompromising sense of propriety, something he always maintained on and off the field.”
The 1962 Asian Games gold medallist had also represented India in other prestigious tournaments like 1956 and 1960 Olympics, the 1958 and 1962 Asian Games, the 1959 Merdeka Cup, and much more. Apart from winning the gold medal in the 1962 Asian Games, Balaram also finished 4th in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and runners-up in the 1959 Merdeka Cup.
At the domestic level, Balaram was a four-time Santosh Trophy champion with Hyderabad (1956), and with Bengal (1958, 1959, 1962). On the last of these occasions, he had also captained Bengal to a victory.
Balaram had also made his name in the Red and Gold threads of East Bengal, where he won a plethora of trophies, including the CFL (1961), IFA Shield (1958, 1961), Durand Cup (1960), Rovers Cup (1962), and many more. He had the distinction of winning the CFL and IFA Shield as captain in 1961, when he also won the Golden Boot in the CFL.
He had also played for BNR, where he won the IFA Shield (1963), and Rovers Cup (1964).
At the peak of his form, Balaram was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1962. After retiring from active football, he remained involved in the game, serving as a National Selector and Talent Spotter for the AIFF.
Born on October 4, 1937, Balaram started his career in Hyderabad, then travelled to Kolkata in 1957 and joined East Bengal. For the next five seasons, he was the darling of the crowd, one of the biggest stars in Indian football. In 1963, he joined the Indian Railways. The same year, the curtain abruptly came abruptly down on his roaring career.
“Having joined South Eastern Railways, I had to play for BNR in the Kolkata league. Midway through the season, I found I was getting unusually tired. A few tests at the Railways hospital confirmed my lungs were heavily infected,” Balaram revealed many years later in an interview.
“The doctor, who was a huge fan of my game, said playing football could cost my life. That was the end of my career. I was 27 then,” he had said.