Cricket is obviously one of the most popular sports in India. The sport that comes after cricket as the second most popular game is football. India has so far produced many legendary football players and in future, it will produce a lot. Once there was a golden age (1950’s and 1960’s) for the Indian football team. Now, due to lack of investment and proper planning, the standard of Indian football has decreased. It is thought that the increasing popularity of cricket has become the only reason of its ignorance. In spite of many limitations, better future of Indian football is much expected. Hope that they will play in the FIFA World Cup and resurrect the dying game.
Baichung Bhutia is undeniably one of the most famous football players of India. He has a very good skill in shooting the football. That is why, the Sikkim-born striker is famous as the Sikkimese Sniper. To get to know more about his skill in football, there can be mentioned I. M. Vijayan’s quotation which described Bhutia as “God’s gift to Indian football”.
In 1999, he joined an English club, Bury, and became the first Indian footballer to sign a contract with a European club. Not only that but also he became the second Indian footballer to play professionally in Europe after Mohammed Salim. He also played for Malaysian football club, Perak FA, on a short loan basis.
He has very good record for both club and national team. Appearing in 107 matches for India’s national football team, he made a record of 43 goals. He announced his retirement from international football in August 2011. On 10 January 2012, he played against Bayern Munich at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi which was his farewell match.
If there is anyone who can overcome Baichung Bhutia in fame and record then he is Sunil Chhetri. The 29-year-old Nepalorigin India born striker has so far scored 39 goals appearing in 71 matches. It is needless to say that if he is in good form then very soon he is going to make a surpass Bhutia’s goal record.
After signing with an USA based football club, Kansas City Wizards, of Major League Soccer in 2010, he became the third player from the subcontinent to go abroad. It was the worst year of his career as his contract with the American club did not last long and soon he returned to India and joined Chirag United to play in the I-League.
In 2012, he signed a contract with a Portuguese multi-sports club, Sporting Clube Portugal, which is based in Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon and so far made his appearance in three matches for them. Currently he is playing for Bengaluru FC in I-League.
He earned his name and fame for himself showing his performance in the national football team. Because of his contribution, India could win the 2007 Nehru Cup, 2009 Nehru Cup, the 2012 Nehru Cup as well as the 2011 SAFF Championship.
he was famous AIFF Player the Year in 2007 and 2011,
Legendary player, Peter Thangaraj, who died at the age of 72 on 24 November 2008, was called towering custodian of the Indian football team because of his tall height and thin figure. He started playing for his country in 1954 and continued till 1968. For his contribution in the Indian football team, he was given Arjuna Award in 1968. He played for Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting clubs.
Interesting thing is that he started playing as a center-forward when he joined Madras Regimental Centre (MRC) in 1953, but he later took goalkeeping and got success. Being influenced by Russian great Lev Yashin, he picked up his style of throwing. Because of his performance under the goal bar. He was famous as the Best Goalkeeper of Asia in 1958.
Sailendra Nath Manna:
He is commonly famous as Sailen Manna to his fans. The former captain of Indian football team is considered as one of the best defenders to have been produced by India so far. He got name and fame for his powerful free-kicks.
In 2000, All India Football Federation paid him honor giving the ‘Footballer of the Millennium’ award. Even, he was awarded the Padmashree in 1971 for his contribution to Indian football.
He started played for Mohun Bagan since 1942 and made a record of playing for this reputed football club for 19 years continuously till his retirement in 1960. That is why he also won the ‘Mohun Bagan Ratna’ in 2001.
He was part of the Indian football team for the 1948 London Olympics, where they were handed a defeat by France with a margin of 1-2. As a captain, he was successful because under his leadership, India won the Gold Medal in the 1951 Asian Games and also won the Quadrangular Tournament for four successive years from 1952 to 1956. In 1953, he was the only Asian footballer to have been in the list of the 10 best captains of the world by the English Football Association.
He breathed his last on 27 February 2012 aged 87.
Jarnail Singh Dhillon:
Jarnail Singh Dhillon is another gifted player to Indian football. Because of his defensive skill, he is still famous as one of the most outstanding defenders of India. He was also one of the few players who played an important role in shaping the fate of the country’s football during the 1950’s and 1960’s.
He started playing at the age of 16 years for the Khalsa College, Mahilpur of Punjab in the year 1952. After playing four years there, he then played for the Khalsa Sporting club for the year 1956-57. Then, he moved to Rajasthan Club for the year 1957-58. He played for Mohun Bagan for a period of 10 years from 1958 to 1968.
He had many notable contributions to the successes of Indian football. His performance in the 1962 Jakarta Asian Games will be remembered with pride and honor. In this tournament, Jarnail Singh played with a serious head injury that required six stitches. The interesting thing is that he played as a forward which was his new role and scored essential goals in the semi-final and final to help India obtained its maiden Asiad football gold.
He showed his power and skill in defense in the 1964 Asia Cup at Tel Aviv where India became the runner-up. Then he became the only Indian to lead the Asian All Star Football team. He also won the prestigious Arjuna Award in 1964.
He died at the age of 64 due to an asthmatic disorder in 2000.
This legendary player is also regarded as one of the most famous players in the history of Indian football. Gostha Pal became well known as a defender who used to play in barefoot. Bangladeshi origin Gostha Pal was one of the best defenders of his time in Indian football. Because of his defensive capabilities, he was compared to the Great Wall of China. He played from the Right Back position.
He started his career as a footballer at the age of 11 after joining Kumartuli Club of Calcutta in the year 1907 and played six years for the club. Accordingly, he caught the attention of Kalicharan Mitra popularly known as “Kali Mittir” who helped him joining the Mohun Bagan club at the age of sixteen in the year 1912. In 1921, he was given the captaincy of the club and led the club for the next five years. He was also selected as the captain of the Indian football team in 1924.
He played for Mohun Bagan for 23 years from 1912 to 1936. Because of his contribution to the club, he was presented the “Mohun Bagan Ratna” in 2004 and became the fourth player to receive this honor. He took retirement in 1935. He was also the first player to have received the ‘Padma Shri’ award on April 27, 1962. You will see a statue of Gostha Pal in front of Eden Gardens in Kolkata in his honor.
P K Banerjee:
P.K Banerjee is another player who is one of the all time best football players of India. There is no confusion about greatness. If readers look at his record then they will accept him as a great player without any argument. Appearing in 84 matches for his country, he scored 65 goals. He played from the striker position.
The greatest achievement in his career is perhaps that FIFA named him Indian Footballer of the 20th century. He became the first-ever footballer to receive the Arjuna Award in 1961. He also received the prestigious Padma Shri award in 1990. In 2004, he was given the ‘FIFA Centennial Order of Merit’ which is the highest award from FIFA.
P K Banerjee played for Mohun Bagan and Eastern Railway clubs. However, he started playing for the Indian football team in the 1955 Quadrangular tournament in Dhaka, East Pakistan which is now the capital of Bangladesh at the age of 19. He then represented his country in three Asian Games, two Olympics, and three Merdeka Cup tournaments.
He took retirement in 1967.
Subimal Chuni Goswami:
Subimal Chuni Goswami who is generally famous as Chuni Goswami is different to other players of this list. He is a versatile genius. As a matter of fact, he was an Indian international footballer as well as first-class cricketer.
He has a record of playing for the only club, Mohun Bagan. When he joined the Mohun Bagan Junior Team in 1946, he was just an eight-year-old boy. In 1954, he was then selected in the Mohun Bagan senior team. Furthermore, he continued playing for the club till his retirement in 1968.
Besides playing football, Subimal Chuni Goswami was also well famous as a first-class cricketer. He made his first-class cricket debut for Bengal in Ranji Trophy in 1962-63.
Furthermore, he has achieved many awards because of his services to the game. He won the Best Striker Award of Asia in 1963, the Arjuna Award in 1963, the Padma Shri 1983, the Padmashree in 1983 and the Mohun Bagan Ratna in 2005.
M. Vijayan is famous as one of the best football players of India. In the late nineties and early twentieth, this striker along with Baichung Bhutia made a successful partnership for the Indian football team. Scoring a goal in 12 seconds against Bhutan in the 1999 SAF Games, he became the third player to score a faster international goal after Davide Gualtieri and Hakan Şükür who scored goals in 8 and 11 seconds respectively.
After beginning his career as a footballer in 1987, Vijayan played in most of the clubs in India. Making his international debut for India two years after in 1989, he appeared in 79 matches where he scored 40 goals. Showing his brilliant performance in the domestic arena, he rose to become the highest earner in Indian club football.
He came from a very poor family and used to sell soda bottles in the Thrissur Municipal Stadium to support his family financially. However, after being chosen by M.K his life changed. Joseph, who was the then DGP of Kerala, for the Kerala Police at the age of 17 years.
Because of his performance. he was famous ‘Indian Player of the Year’ thrice in 1993, 1997 and 1999. As a matter of fact, M. Vijayam became the first player to have won the award multiple times. He also became the first football player from Kerala to win an Arjuna Award in 2003. He retired from football after the Afro-Asian Games 2003.
The interesting thing is that he also acted in Jayraj-directed award winning film “Santham”.
He is an Indian professional football player playing in the attacking midfielder position. As a player, he is famous as a fierce attacking midfielder. Climax Lawrence is a very humble and patient player outside the field. Because he is never seen complaining about Coaches.
Since making his international debut for the Indian football team in 2002, Climax Lawrence has become a regular member of the national team. So far he has represented India in 81 international matches where he scored 2 goals only. However, he announced his retirement from national team on 1 February 2012. In the I-league, he plays for Mumbai.
He will be remembered for his goal that he made in the 91st minute against Afghanistan that helped India win the AFC Challenge Cup by a 1-0 margin.