Olympian footballer Mewalal is no more (Lead)

December 27th, 2008 - 9:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Dec 27 (IANS) Former Olympian footballer Sahu Mewalal, one of India’s all-time great forwards and a lethal scorer, died of old-age complications at a city hospital early Saturday. He was 82.A very popular centre forward in the five-strong attack formation of yore, Mewalal, left behind his wife, a son and two daughters.

Mewalal turned out in the national colours in the London Olympics, 1948, and Helsinki Olympics, 1952, besides playing a key role netting four goals in the Indian team’s gold conquest at the 1951 Delhi Asiad. It was he who fashioned India’s 1-0 victory in the Asian Games final by scoring the all-important goal against Iran.

A darling of the soccer fans, he was known for his acrobatic fitness and spectacular back volleys. He was one of the earliest Indian exponents of the bicycle kick, which he used to a telling effect to fetch goals for his team.

“His back volleys and half volleys were all extraordinary. He was the first Indian footballer who dazzled spectators with his bicycle kicks. His superb fitness and athletic performances made him a very popular player,” recalled Chuni Goswami, who led the country in the 1952 Helsinki Games.

Goswami, who made his India debut under Mewalal’s captaincy in an unofficial match against China in 1955, described him as a “friend, brother and a perfect gentleman”.

P.K. Banerjee, who led the team in the 1960 Rome Olympics, paid glowing tributes to Mewalal. “I was greatly inspired by his dedication,” he said.

Banerjee, who played for two years alongside Mewalal for Railways besides turning out together in the 1955 Dhaka Quadrangular Cup, recalled: “Even after the team’s training sessions got over, Mewalal would stay put in the ground for at least an hour and try to sharp-tune his shots, drop volleys and back volleys.

“His short stature never came in the way of his sharp and outstanding game. He had great ball control, though he didn’t dribble much. He was among India’s all-time great footballers,” said Banerjee.

Mewalal got a berth in the Indian team which toured several European countries in the late 1940s, and scored six goals in four matches. He also toured Afghanistan, Myanmar and Thailand with the national team, always delivering in the striking zone.

Born on July 1, 1926 here, Mewalal started his football career in the right out slot, but shifted to centre forward within a short time.

Mewalal grabbed attention as an 18-year-old when he struck the winning goal for the Indian Football Association-XI against India-XI in 1944, and was recruited by Aryan club next year.

He played for Mohun Bagan in 1946, prior to a long stint with the Eastern Railway from 1947 to 1955. He also turned out for Bengal Nagpur Railway in 1958.

A nightmare for the rival defenders, Mewalal emerged top scorer in the Kolkata football league on five occasions - in 1949, 1951, 1953, 1954 and 1958.

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