My friend Sushil (Jacob Matthan) of Oulu, Finland said in a recent post Two faces of sport in India on his Blog Seventh Heaven ‘My interest in hockey, especially to be a hockey goalkeeper started in 1952-53 when I was a 10 year old living in
. I used to live opposite the St, Joseph College Hostel and sports grounds.I had many friends studying in the college. One was a guy called Abe Tharakan. He was the hockey goalkeeper for the college. I used to watch the team train and watched all their games. Abe inspired me to take up the game and the position of goalkeeper after I moved to Bangalore in 1954.’ Bombay
Sushil played hockey for
Cathedral School, Bombay and St. Stephan’s, Delhi where Arun Shourie was his captain, and also in . On his mention of England ’s playing fields, a whole lot of memories came flooding back to my mind. I have played hockey on many grounds in St. Joseph but this one is special in several ways. May be Sushil did learn something from me. But he had as his school (Bishop Cotton’s) coach RJ Allen who kept goal for India in three successive Olympics – 1928, 1932, 1936. India
I am also reminded of many a player of the 1950s. Some were internationals, and others, though good, were confined to the local circuit. My first captain at
’s, Ponnappa was a bundle of hockey wisdom, a top class left half, and a good leader. Unnikrishnan of HAL was perhaps the best centre half who never played for St. Joseph . McBride, again of HAL, was a solid back. He later coached the India ’s School team and my two sons, Joseph and Abraham were among the beneficiaries. St. Joseph
Two very good goalkeepers in
were Olympian Deshmuthu, and Dicky Armstrong. Deshmuthu stuck on with HAL. He had occasional lapse of concentration and Laxman was preferred for Bangalore ’s playing eleven. Those were the days when hockey goalkeepers had no protection except for pads and abdomen guards. During 1957 Bombay Nationals when I was holding the citadel for Kerala against the mighty India Punjab, Laxman come to the goal post and gave me a pair of gloves. That was a gesture which I can never forget. Probably that helped me to give a performance which the great Dyanchand reportedly called the finest he had seen.
Armstrong shifted to
where also he excelled. His brother Billy was a planter, and a regular at Mundakayam Club. We used to meet for years, whenever I went to that club. Billy too was a fine man. Bombay
Among the teams, HAL which had all the stars and glamour, and the Army team, Madras Engineering Group (MEG) a well oiled hockey machine, were the top ones.
’s were almost there with them. We had a St. Joseph ’s Sports Club which included some old students also. St. Joseph Chari was the moving spirit behind that venture. I have never come across a person who loved hockey so much; it was his life. He was a good player as well. He is fondly remembered.
I invite you to read Captain of the St. John's Team