India, a country where cricket is a religion is more or less hostile to the growth of football as a popular sport. But this hasn’t stopped many of us from worshipping this game. The fan-base of this sport is growing day by day. This growth is evident from the sightings of boys wearing their ‘Rooneys’ ,‘Ronaldos’ and what not! India has produced some decent talents when it comes to football. Below is a list of some of those ‘legends’ in no particular order.
I M Vijayan: Forward
Born on 25 April, 1969 in Kerala, he is also known as the ‘Black Pearl’. He played for clubs like Mohun Bagan, JCT, Kerala police and FC Cochin. Baichung Bhutia once described him as the most complete player who he has ever seen. After his retirement he tried his hands at acting and worked in a Malayalam film named ‘Santham’. He is also known for scoring the fastest ever international goal at the 1999 SAF games. He was presented with the Arjuna Award in 2002.
Baichung Bhutia: Striker
Probably the most well known Indian footballer of his generation, he was born on 15 December, 1976 in Sikkim. He holds the distinction of being the first Indian to play professional football in England. He had a stint at FC Bury. Besides that, he also played for Mohan Bagan, JCT, East Bengal Club etc. He had a fruitful attacking partnership with I M Vijayan. He was the Indian player of the year in 1995 and 2008. Further, in 2008, he was honoured with the Padmashree award.
Chuni Goswami: Forward
Born on January 15, 1938, he played for Mohun Bagan and represented India during the 1950-60 period. He captained the team that won the gold medal at the Asian Games held at Jakarta. The interesting fact about him is that he is an accomplished cricket player too! He played in 46 matches for team Bengal in the domestic league. He was presented with Arjuna Award in the year 1963 and Padma Shri in the year 1983. A true athlete indeed!
Jarnail Singh Dhillon: Defender
Born in the year 1963, he spent his career at clubs like Khalsa Sporting Club and Mohun Bagan. He scored the winning goal for India at the Asian Games final at Jakarta. For his contributions, he was awarded Arjuna Award in 1964. Also, he is the only Indian to be the Captain of the Asian All Star Football team.
Mohammed Abdul Salim: Winger
Born in the year 1904. He was the first Indian footballer to ply his trade at a European Team. He is well known for his short stint at Celtic in Scotland. He was so used to playing with barefoot that he seldom used boots during matches also. He was a good winger and did well abroad. He returned to India after some time reportedly due to home sickness.
Peter Thangaraj: Goalkeeper
Born in the year 1936 in Andhra Pradesh, he was selected for the Indian Army in the year 1953. While playing for them, he made a successful transition from being a forward to being a goalkeeper. This transformation bore fruit and he went on to become one of the most accomplished Goalies of his time. Later he went on to play for Mohun Bagan, East Bengal Club and Mohammedan Sporting. He was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1967. He also played twice for the Asian All Star team.
Sailendra Manna: Defender
Born on September 1, 1924 in Bengal. He played for clubs like Howrah Union and Mohun Bagan. He represented the Indian National Football team in the London Olympic Games 1948. He also led India to the inaugural Asian Games gold in 1951. He was honored with the Padma Shri award in the year 1971.
P K Banerjee: Forward
Born on October 15, 1936 in Bengal. P.K. Banerjee represented the Indian Football squad for the first time at the age of 19 years. He won the gold medal at the 1962 Asian Games. After his retirement, he turned to coaching and was successful at management too. In the year 1972 he became a coach for the National Football team of India. He remained the coach until 1986. He was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1961 and Padmashree in 1990.
There are many others who made notable contributions and haven’t been mentioned above. You may use the comment section below to add your Legend.