By Arun Ghosh, Former Defender, India National Team
NEW DELHI: I still feel goosebumps when I go back to that evening of 4 September 1962. The Senayan Main Stadium in Jakarta was jam-packed with a partisan 1,00,000-strong Indonesian crowd cheering loudly for Korea Republic.
But we had our support too. Any guesses? Strange as it may sound, the Pakistan Hockey team cheered for us. Unbelievable, but true.
The hostile atmosphere made us more determined as the match moved ahead. Pradip-da (Pradip Kumar Banerjee) gave us the lead before Jarnail (Singh) doubled it three minutes later. Jarnail had stitches on his forehead and was, hence, played as a centre forward (striker) in the match.
There was pin-drop silence at the stadium when we went 2-0 up. Though Korea Republic scored a late goal, goalkeeper Peter (Thangaraj) saw off the danger till the end. The animosity against the Indian continent was so high that no one came to congratulate us even after the match. But, what a night it was for Indian Football!
In the second match of the group stage, we faced a massive setback as Jarnail Singh had to be stretchered off. Following a collision, he started bleeding profusely and received ten stitches.
The substitution rule was yet to be introduced in football then, and hence, we had to play one-man down for most of the match. The terrific trio of Chuni-PK-Balaram was on target and we edged past Thailand by a whopping 4-1 margin.
Rahim-saab (Syed Rahim, Coach) knew his players like the back of his hand. He knew how to bring the best out of a certain player. After Jarnail got injured, he switched me from right-back to centre-back (central defender) and I lived up to his expectations.
Since then, I have always played as a centre-back for the Indian team till I hung my boots.
His other masterstroke was to bring a heavily bandaged Jarnail Singh back against South Vietnam in the semi-final; but not as a defender, rather as a centre-forward. Everyone got stunned but Jarnail scored in back-to-back games.
When we started to play as a defender, our aim was primarily to clear the ball and avert the danger. But Rahim-saab changed the perception. He taught us — “Attack starts from the goalkeeper.” He taught us the nuances of ground-passing and taking the game forward individually. The entire vantage point was changed and we started to notice the result soon.
We couldn’t give a good account of ourselves in the first match of the group stage. To start a tournament like Asian Games with a 0-2 loss took a toll on us. Our confidence took a hit but Rahim-saab knew how to keep everyone motivated. It worked wonders for us.
A win always helps you regain confidence. A team which got unsettled in the absence of the main central defender Jarnail Singh outplayed Japan 2-0 within twenty-four hours of beating Thailand. After the comfortable win against Thailand, we started believing in ourselves. The rest is history. (Text & Picture: AIFF Media)