who died Thursday at age 85, was such a far cry from publicity that mentioning him after Chuni Goswami and P.K. Banerjee in that magical trio of Indian forwards that once ruled the continent and flashed in the Olympics never seemed wrong.
It didn’t matter that Balaram scored in the Olympics and Goswami, undeniably the best flair player in the high noon of the national team, didn’t. It didn’t matter that he won the Arjuna Award in 1962, a year before Goswami and after only Banerjee in soccer.
147251It was mainly because Balaram guarded his privacy the way actors Greta Garbo and, closer to home, Suchitra Sen.
There was more than a hint of anger in his decision to escape the spotlight. That he was not given Padma Shri was hurtful, especially because Banerjee and Goswami had received it decades earlier. The fact that he was not taken seriously as the selector of the Indian national team also hurt this mild-mannered man. Last year, Balaram refused to attend the book launch because it was next to the East Bengal tent.
And so from East Bengal and Kolkata Maidan, which had welcomed him as a native when he transferred from City College Old Boys in Hyderabad in 1957, Balaram left. Across the river and into the municipality of Uttarpara in the Hooghly District of West Bengal. A bachelor, he lived alone, but neighbors, local shopkeepers and vegetable vendors never made him feel like one.
Football was something he excelled at in almost another life. His career was short, cut short in his prime after a severe attack of pleurisy. But Balaram’s 36 international matches included two Olympics, two Asian Games and the Merdeka Cup. He scored 10 goals for Team India.
Players came to Calcutta to make a name for themselves. When Balaram moved to East Bengal in 1957, he was already an Olympian, making his debut for Team India in the 1956 Melbourne Games. From his very first match for Team India, a 1-4 loss to Yugoslavia in the semifinals, until his retirement, Balaram was always one of the first names that coach Syed Rahim put on his pencil.
It was Raheem, the architect of Indian soccer’s brightest moments from 1951 to 1962, who called up the teenager from Secunderabad for the Santosh Trophy. Money was a deterrent, so Balaram hesitated. Only when Rahim paid him for p
Tulsidas Balaram, diedhe came to Hyderabad to test the bike, writes Novi Kapadia journalist. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship ended after Rahim’s death in 1963.
By then Balaram had managed to score against Hungary in the 1960 Olympics and against Thailand and Japan in the 1962 Asian Games, where India won gold. Between 1958 and 1962, India won 12 of the 16 games in which Balaram, Goswami, and Banerjee played together. The trio scored 20 of India’s 36 goals during this period, with Goswami and Banerjee each scoring seven and Balaram scoring six.
On their way to gold in the 1962 Asian Games, these three scored nine of India’s 11 goals. Together they scored the first goal in the final against South Korea, with Balaram starting the drive and Goswami passing for Banerjee’s shot. India won 2-1, with Jarnail Singh scoring the second goal.
In the days of the five forwards, Balaram played for India at left-back to accommodate Goswami, who preferred the left-back position. But for East Bengal, for which he reached 100 goals the fastest, and then for BNR–he moved to the railroad team in 1963 because it meant reliable work–he also played in the left wing position. So did he for the Bengals, for whom he won three of his four Santosh Trophy titles, the last as captain in 1962. Known for his ball control and ability to make defensive cuts, Balaram could also play on the right flank of the forward line.
Banerjee and Goswami died within 41 days of each other in 2020. After Balaram died after a long illness, Arun Ghosh and DMK Afzal remained the only living members of the 1962 Asian Games team.
p that, like most Indian players of Balaram’s generation.