Tuesday, July 5th, 2022 09:21:39

Jarnail Singh : Outstanding Defender in Indian Football

By Sri Krishna
Updated: March 7, 2022 12:36 pm

One of the finest defenders in Indian football who played for a decade for Kolkata’s famous Mohun Bagan Club 1958-68 and was member of the Indian football team that brought home the only gold in football in 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta played before a hostile crowd was Jarnail Singh.What truly puts him among the greats of Indian football was the goal he scored against South Korea with six stitches on his head and that gave India the gold at the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta before a hostile crowd.

Jarnail Singh Dhillon or known as Jarnail Singh was born in 1936, in Panam, Hoshiarpur, Punjab.

An outstanding defender, he was rock like figure in the defence making it difficult for rival forwards to penetrate the Indian defences.

When situation demanded, he could also join the attack and his goal scoring ability despite being a defender was something unique.

Although there are so many remarkable contributions made by Jarnail Singh towards the success of Indian Football, there are some incidents that have made him an immortal asset in the history of Indian Football. Perhaps the best example of his sheer dedication and will power towards the success of the team is his Match Winning goal by a header against South Korea during the Finals of 1962 Asian Games.  Jarnail was having 6 stitches in his head right since the quarterfinal match due to an injury, but his determination was undeterred and he continued playing in the Semi Final and Final rounds with stitched head itself. Amazingly, he scored the Match Winning goal in the Final round with a header only, and became the hero of Indian Football as the Indian team won the Gold Medal at Asian Games 1962.

That unforgettable goal against South Korea in the 1962 Asian Games final in Jakarta when he had six stitches on his head.

It would indeed be worthwhile to what former Jarnail Singh’s contemporary and teammate in the gold medal winning side Arun Ghosh recalled about the game as got  goosebumps revisiting the game.

Ghosh, a former defender, was one of the key members of Indian football team of the ‘Golden Era’.

India defeated South Korea 2-1 in the final, which was held on September 4, 1962. That was the last gold medal India won in the Asian Games football. India had also won the gold medal in the inaugural Asian Games in 1951 in New Delhi.

Ghosh, who along with Jarnail Singh and Syed Nayeemuddin formed a solid defensive trio, recalled how the Indonesians wanted India to lose that final but the Pakistan hockey team cheered for it. “I still feel goosebumps when I go back to that evening of 4th September, 1962. The Senayan Main Stadium in Jakarta was jampacked with a partisan 1,00,000-strong Indonesian crowd cheering for South Korea,” Ghosh said.

“But we had our support too. Any guesses? Strange as it may sound, the Pakistan hockey team cheered for us. Unbelievable, but true,” he wrote for the All India Football Federation website.

Despite the hostile atmosphere, P. K. Banerjee gave India the lead before Jarnail Singh doubled it. Jarnail had stitches on his forehead due to an injury in an earlier match and was played as a centre forward in the match. “There was pin-drop silence at the stadium when we went 2-0 up. Though Korea scored a late goal, goalkeeper Peter (Thangaraj) saw off the danger till the end. The animosity against the Indian continent was so high that no one came to congratulate us even after the match. But, what a night it was for Indian football!”

Jarnail Singh known for his outstanding capabilities as a defender was a member of the Indian squad during the golden era of Indian Football in the 1950s and 1960s, and was one of the most important players that had contributed towards the charismatic achievements the team had made in international Football in that period.

He was conferred the Arjuna Award in 1964 and led the Indian Football team during 1965-67 and was the only Indian to be the Captain of the Asian All Star Football team in 1966.

At the age of 16 years he began playing for the Khalsa Colllege, Mahilpur of Punjab in 1952 and continued playing for them till 1956.  He joined Khalsa Sporting club and played for them 1956-57 before moving to Calcutta’s Rajasthan Club, in 1957-1958, and finally joined the Mohun Bagan Athletic Club in 1958 and played for them till 1968, for 10 years.

In 1964, he  showed his prowess at the Asia Cup Football in  Israel, where India was the Runner Up taking the Silver Medal. He served as the Captain of the Indian Football team from 1965 to  1967.

At the domestic level, Jarnail helped Mohun Bagan win a number of major titles and also played a key role in helping Punjab scale new heights, and it was under his mentorship that the state Football team was able to win the coveted Santosh Trophy for the first time in the 1970. The state team won the trophy once again in 1974, this time ironically defeating a strong West Bengal 6-0 in the final match.

Jarnail Singh served as the Deputy Director of Sports in Punjab during 1985-90, and as the Director of Sports for the same state during 1990-94. He died at age 64 due to asthmatic disorder on October 13, 2000, at Vancouver, Canada.

 

By Sri Krishna

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