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Who was the first Indian to score an international hat-trick in football?

Who was the first Indian to score an international hat-trick in football?

Sayan Chatterjee

Published: 10 Dec 2020 8:13 AM GMT

One of the forgotten men of Indian football, Lt. Colonel Puran Bahadur Thapa was the first Indian to score a hat-trick in international football, that too against Pakistan. This was in 1954, in the Quadrangular Trophy featuring India, Pakistan, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Burma (now Myanmar).

Thapa, who was a household name in the 50s due to his powerful shots and ability on the ball, was an army man through and through. Born in 1928, he joined the army in 1947 and represented the 8th Gorkha Rifles and Gorkha Brigade as well as for Services in the Santosh Trophy. In spite of getting a number of offers from the big Kolkata clubs, he stayed on with the forces and after retirement from football, served as a soldier and retired as Lt. Colonel. He passed away in 2014.

It was at the iconic Eden Gardens in Kolkata that he achieved his most famous feat. The Quadrangular tournament was a regular fixture in the Indian footballing calendar between 1952 and 1955. India won each of those editions, but it was in 1954 that the tournament was held in India.

The Indian head coach at that time was S.A. Rahim. Under his tutelage and the late Sailen Manna’s captaincy, Puran Bahadur shone the brightest. His hat-trick helped India defeat Pakistan 3-1, thereby winning the tournament for the third successive year. He had also bagged an assist against Ceylon in India’s opening match and another goal in the match against Burma. The following year, he again had a starring role in India’s tournament triumph, this time in Dhaka.

It’s a pity then that Puran Bahadur never played for India in a major international tournament like the Olympics or the Asian Games. Either injuries or work commitments with the army deprived him the opportunity to represent India on such platforms. However, what he can’t be denied is a place in the record books of Indian football for a feat that was unheard of in those times.

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