Mumbai: "April is the cruelest month," observed essayist and poet T S Eliot. His words have come true with a vengeance. For not only has the coronavirus ravaged through the portals of nations and felled a few lakhs in its sweep, but there have been fatalities this month for various other reasons.
The cruellest parting kick was the blowing of the final whistle on the ailing Subimal 'Chuni' Goswami, who died in Kolkata on Thursday at the age of 82.
His name may not be one millennials are familiar with, considering that their knowledge of Indian football merely extends to the exploits of a Chhetri, Bhutia or an I M Vijayan. The 1960 Olympian and 1962 Asian Games gold winning captain was more than India's first football mega star -- he was a successful first class cricketer, an all-round sportsman who played hockey and lawn tennis with equal felicity, a glamour boy, equally comfortable in the company of filmstars and the archetypal gentleman, who played the game in its true spirit.
A few of his illustrious footballing colleagues in the national team -- Tulsidas Balaram, S S Narayanan, Fortunato Franco etc, -- when India was a powerhouse in Asian football are still around, but Goswami's passing is a reminder that the values he epitomised must not be forgotten and passed down to subsequent generations.
Goswami was more than just a versatile forward who either created or scored goals with his sublime skills, accurate passing and peripheral vision that put India on the podium on many an occasion. As the equally legendary Jarnail Singh once said, "We were all very good footballers. But Chuni was different. He was an artist."
Goswami believed that skills could conquer all, and since this is an ingredient that is in short supply in the current Indian scenario, the powers that be should concentrate on cultivating a new breed of skillful players who can take India back to the top.
What the current generation of footballers who keep on chasing the big buck could also learn from Goswami is loyalty -- he was a one-club man, remaining true to Mohun Bagan for the entire duration of his playing career, despite some tempting offers.
Another quality that Goswami possessed in abundance was true grit and immense self-belief. That he could give up international football to concentrate on first-class cricket and make a reasonable success of it speaks volumes of his tenacity and talent. With his deceptive medium pace and his dogged batsmanship, Goswami was more than just a utility cricketer and once took Bengal to the final of the Ranji Trophy in 1972.
Goswami will now be playing a different ball game in the celestial fields but his contribution to Indian football and to the ethos of sportsmanship will live forever in the annals of Indian sport.