Two Ranji trophy finals, one as a captain. Forty-three First-Class matches and a memorable performance against a West Indies team regarded as one of the best in the world. Most budding cricketers would settle for what Chuni Goswami achieved as a cricketer.
But his greatness lies in the fact that he did all this after an even better career as a footballer. He won an Asian Games gold medal and was part of the team that finished fourth at the Olympics. Even 54 years after his last football match for India, Chuni Goswami is regarded as the most talented player to have ever played for the country.
It’s fair to say that he lived dreams of two separate athletes in one life. It was only possible due to his extreme focus on fitness and above all a deep love for sports.
An old interview on Doordarshan with the legend sums up just how much he adored sports. Even years after his retirement, having achieved what he did both in football and cricket, Goswami when asked about the happiness he gets by looking back at his career, said he was far from being done.
“I’m not that old. I have a lot more to achieve in my life yet,” he said.
The journey from football to cricket and then to coaching was a special one for Chuni Goswami, who could never really detach himself from the field. A fitness freak, he attracted crowds that came just to see him work out several years after his playing days had ended. He continued to play local cricket matches at an age few would comprehend.
In that old interview, Goswami talked up his early days as a footballer, a stellar career with a great team, moving back to cricket and his love for it all.
Here are the excerpts:
On early days as a footballer
I started at the age of eight. I was very lucky that I was spotted by BD Chatterjee while playing at a park. I was fortunate to play for the Mohun Bagan boys’ team at such a young age. It was serious football but for me the most enjoyable football of my life.
On opting to play for Calcutta University team ahead of the Indian team
In 1955, I was selected in the Indian team for the Far East tour, but I decided against going as I wanted to play in the All India University Games. I felt that was more important for me than playing in exhibition matches.
On choosing football over cricket
From 1952 to 1957, I played football and cricket simultaneously. In 1957, I captained both the cricket and football teams for Calcutta University. That’s when I thought I needed to choose one of the two sports to be able to concentrate more on it. that’s when people told me that I was more talented in football than cricket and naturally I opted for it. But even then, I always had cricket at the back of my mind.
On his advice for youngsters to become a good sportsperson
There is no recipe as such, but I can tell you that for any discipline or any sport, there is no substitute for hard work. If you have the talent, you must bring it out with a lot of hard practice.
Here’s the video of the full interview with Chuni Goswami by Doordarshan: