1. Nevillede D'Souza:
He was the first Asian to score a hat-trick in the 1956 Olympic Games. Neville was a natural talent in the truest sense, blessed with the speed, skills and stamina. Neville De Souza`s magic brought India to the pinnacle of glory and had taken India to the very doorstep of an Olympic medal. In 1956, they sprang a surprise by beating the hosts Australia by 4-2. He also toured East Africa in 1952 with Tata`s, and scored 34 goals in 17 matches, and represented Bombay in the National hockey from 1953 to 1955. After retiring in 1963 he took to coaching and was on the selection panel of the All India Football Federation. However, the Indian hat-trick hero of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics died of a heart attack in 1980.
2. Biachung Bhutia:
The most popular footballer in Indian history, Bhutia is the face of Indian football around the world. He is the captain of Indian team and is very agile, acrobatic and scores vital goals. He is one of the first to venture overseas and play for Bury FC in England. As a player and leader, his contribution to the team’s success is immense. He is often nicknamed the Sikkimese Sniper because of his shooting skills in football. Three-time Indian Player of the Year I. M. Vijayan described Bhutia as "God''s gift to Indian football".
3. Subimal Chuni Goswami
Goswami was born on1938, in Kishoregunj, Bengal. During the golden era of Indian football, Chuni Goswami was one of the mainstays of the national team. Goswami started his professional career with the Mohun Bagan Club in 1954. In the 1950s and 60s, India did well in the international stage riding on the skills of Goswami and a host of other capable players. The best part of Chuni Goswami`s career was the football gold at the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta. In the final, the Goswami-led team defeated South Korea 2-1, with goals coming from P.K. Banerjee and Jarnail Singh. Chuni Goswami was bestowed with the Arjuna Award in 1963 and the Padmashri in 1983.He has reprented West Bengal in Cricket.
4. Jarnail Singh Dhillon:
Jarnail Singh was born on1936 in Panam, Hoshiarpur, Punjab and is regarded as one of the most outstanding defenders of India. Like many of his compatriots, Jarnail played a pivotal role in shaping India`s football fortunes. His heroic antics in the 1962 Asian Games are a part of Indian football folklore now. Braving a nasty head-injury that required six stitches, Jarnail, in his new role as a forward, scored crucial goals in the semi-final and final to fetch India its maiden Asiad football gold.
Jarnail was associated with the Mohun Bagan Club for 10 glorious years when the green-and-maroon team swept all the major titles at the national level. After quitting from Mohun Bagan in 1969, Jarnail went to play for Punjab and inspired the team to win the first Santosh Trophy in 1970 as a coach-cum-player.
5. P K Banerjee:
P K Banerjee was born on 1936, in Jalpaiguri, Bengal. He was one of the stalwarts of the formidable Indian football squad that made a name for itself in the international stage. Banerjee had captained the national team at the 1969 Rome Olympics.
Banerjee represented India in three Asiads from 1958 to 1966. In the 1962 edition, India clinched the gold medal with Banerjee scoring against all the teams except South Korea. Post-retirement, Banerjee coached the Calcutta giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal and was associated with the national team for a long time. In 1961, P. K. Banerjee became the first-ever footballer to receive the Arjuna Award.
6. Peter Thangaraj:
Peter was born in 1936, in Andhra Pradesh. Peter Thangaraj is one of the best goalkeepers that India has ever produced. Thangaraj was one of the pioneers of the Indian team that participated in the 1956 Melbourne and 1960 Rome Olympics. When India clinched the gold at the 1962 Jakarta Asian Games, Thangaraj was the custodian of that team. He was named the Best Goalkeeper of Asia in 1958 and awarded the Arjuna Award in 1967. At the domestic circuit, Thangaraj earned accolades playing for Calcutta giants like Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting. He was part of the Bengal team, which continuously won the Santosh Trophy from 1961 to 1964. “The lamp-Post” as he was known during his playing days was a towering personality under the bar.
7. I M Vijayan:
I M Vijayan was born on April 25, 1969, in Thrissur, Kerala. He was one of the most versatile strikers of Indian football nicknamed as “Black Pearl” of Indian Football. Vijayan made his international debut in 1989 and spearheaded the Indian attack in various tournaments starting with the Nehru Cup, Pre-Olympics, Pre-World Cup, SAAF Cup and SAF Games. Vijayan was the first footballer from Kerala to win the Arjuna Award and was adjudged the `Best footballer of the year` in 1993, 97 and 99. In the 1999 SAAF Games, Vijayan earned the unique distinction of scoring the fastest ever-international goal when just after 12 seconds of match start against Bhutan. The last match, before his retirement, he signed off in style in the 2003 Afro-Asian games where he emerged the top scorer with four goals.
8. Sailendra Nath Manna:
Manna was born on 1924, in Batra, Howrah District, Bengal. Sailendra Manna, former India captain and defender, brought laurels to the nation with his virtuosity on the soccer turf. He was a member of the first-ever Indian football team on an overseas tour that took part in the 1948 London Olympics.
Post-Olympics, Manna led India to the inaugural Asian Games gold in 1951 when they beat Iran 1-0 in the final. Under Manna`s leadership, India won four successive titles in the South East Asian quadrangular meet between 1952 and 1955. He was named “Footballer of the Millennium” by the AIFF in 2000.
AWARDS: 1971 - Padmashri Award, 2001 - Mohun Bagan Ratna
9. Mohammed Abdul Salim:
He was the first player from the Indian sub-continent to play for a European football team, during a short but significant spell with Celtic F.C. in 1937. This skilful winger stunned the Celtic supporters with his ability to play with bare-feet. Celtic persuaded him to stay but Salim got home-sick and returned.
10. Inder Singh:
This recipient of the Arjuna Award strode the Indian football firmament like a colossus for over two decades. With his speed, stamina and killer instinct, he scripted victory easily. Having joined the Leader Club in 1960 and the JCT in 1974, he played for Punjab from 1962-1978, for India from 1963-1975. He captained the Indian team thrice in 1969, 1973, and 1975. He won the Arjuna Award in 1969.
It was his scoring ability that won him laurels. His shielding of the ball from the immediate marker was marvellous, according to experts. His record of 23 goals in the Santosh Trophy Tournament held in Punjab in 1974 has not been beaten till date. He was selected in the Asian All-Stars team in 1967-1968. He was declared the “Best Right out” in Asian Cup held at Tel Aviv in Israel in 1964. India was the runner-up there. He played for the JCT from 1974 to 1985. After his retirement, he was the manager of the JCT from 1985 to 2001.
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