The multifaceted Chuni Goswami evoked a feeling of "sporting jealousy" in Tulsidas Balaram and brought him sleepless nights before he started to compete with him, run, score, win and celebrate with him. And, being spoken of in the same breath.
"I have become Tulsidas Balaram because of Chuni Goswami," says, quite candidly, a part of the holy trinity of Indian football in one of the most glowing tributes for the late genius. "I wanted to prove that I'm also no lesser than him. It was a sporting jealousy I had developed. I was not able to sleep well. I would always think of him, dream of him. I wanted to prove a point," the 83-year-old Balaram told PTI in an interaction.
Along with the late PK Banerjee, they once formed the deadliest trio of strikers in Indian football history. The 82-year-old Goswami died here on Thursday after a cardiac arrest, 41 days after his equally illustrious colleague, Banerjee. "When I first saw him, he was a young boy, surrounded by so many people and he earned a lot of name (after winning Santosh Trophy in 1955). I asked my seniors about him," the former Hyderabad forward said, recalling the 1956 Santosh Trophy.
Chuni Goswami, PK Banerjee Tulsidas Balaram (Image: Telegraph)
Balaram saw one match of Goswami - Bengal's semifinal loss to Bombay as Hyderabad went on to win the championship in Trivandrum that year. "He played very well for Bengal last year. He was of same height, same structure, the only difference was he was a little bit fair complex and I was a bit dark. I was also a young boy. "I said to myself if he can play so well why can't I also do it? There was something in me wanting to prove and I took it up as a challenge," he said about his move to Kolkata after turning down several other offers.
"Had I not seen him that particular day, I would not have become a 'Balaram'." Balaram joined traditional rivals East Bengal but he said they enjoyed the media hype and went on to become good friends. "Later on we went on to become very good friends and earned plaudits for India. I would not be 'Balaram' without him. There would be a lot of media hype surrounding us as to who's better and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
Chuni Goswami ( Image: Indian Super League/Facebook)
"Our fight was only on the pitch for 90 minutes. Every time I would go to their tent (Mohun Bagan) after our matches he would treat me with a soft drink and I would reciprocate." As they formed the famed triumvirate, India went on to win the 1962 Asian Games. In 12 of the 16 matches the PK-Chuni-Balaram trio were part of, between 1958 and 1962, they netted 20 of India's 36 goals.
"He fed so many passes to me, many of which resulted in goals. Every moment has been a beautiful memory of him," a saddened Balaram said from his Uttarpara residence. "Next month may be my chance. No one knows. Nobody can say about death. Whenever the call comes, you have to. Everyone has to go. I never thought Chuni will go away within a little over a month (of Banerjee's death)."
Balaram lives alone at his Uttarpara residence, on the banks of river Hooghly on the other side of the Dakshineshwar temple. "I love spending time here looking at the temple. I'm not in a mood to go back to Secunderabad despite my relatives repeatedly asking to return," Balaram said. "I made my name here. People love me here. Nobody knows me there. Everyone loves me here like their own people. I can't leave this city," he signed off.