Monday, February 17, 2020

Jarnail Singh Dhillon: First Indian Captain of the Asian All-star team

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Jarnail Singh Dhillon was a versatile footballer in the history of Indian football. In the era when stopper backs were not considered very important, Dhillon secured his position in the Indian National football team. He moved up to assist the attacking team and rose to the occasion in both the semi-final and final of 1962 Asian games, which is one of the most important and glorious tournament wins in the history of Indian football. He was one of the stalwarts of the Indian National football team and was the captain of the team from 1965-1967. So, let us know more about this amazing Indian stopper back Jarnail Singh Dhillon.

Early Life & Initial Career

Jarnail Singh was born in 1936 at Hoshiarpur, Punjab. At a very young age of 13 years, he faced the atrocities of Hindu-Muslim communal riots that happened after the Independence of India. It was only due to sheer courage and the training that he had received, that he managed to reach Phagwara station from his home town in one single piece. He had seen a lot in his life and did not have anything to fear about.

Kolkata, Mysore, and Hyderabad were the only hubs of football when Jarnail started to play the game. Punjab was not considered as the hub of Indian football. Jarnail Singh Dhillon was only sixteen years old when he started playing professional football for the Khalsa Sporting club. In 1957, with the help of another player, Darshan Singh, he moved to Kolkata and joined the prestigious Rajasthan club.

Jarnail’s start with football at Kolkata was not like what he had dreamed about. He was used as a center back, which was not his natural position and he started struggling. Also, Kolkata was home for many technically polished fine football players and to meet the high expectations of the public became next to impossible for him. But, his talent got noticed by one man at the right time in his career, and he was Arun Sinha, the then coach of the Mohun Bagan team. He visited Jarnail at the Rajasthan club grounds and offered him a position in Mohun Bagan Football Club, which Jarnail accepted immediately without thinking twice. In 1959 he started his legendary career with Green’s and Maroon’s as a stopper back and had a tough first season, but, soon rose to expectations in an important Kolkata derby match and never looked behind. 

The Rising of Dhillon

Jarnail Singh Dhillon soon made his debut in the International football along with Subimal Chuni Goswami. Both the players were strikingly opposite to each other in their playing style on the field, but, complemented each other really well and became the best pair that India had in the 1960s era. With the help of both of these players, Mohun Bagan became an unstoppable force winning Kolkata League six times, IFA Shield and Durand Cup four times. 

Jarnail was never scared of facing the strongest of his opponents and more than techniques, he relied merely on his strength, courage, and guile to face them. He was one of the ferocious players of the then Indian football team. In 1960 Rome Olympics India faced Hungary in a group match and Jarnail was given the responsibility of controlling Florian Albert, one of the most elegant football player of his time. Jarnail did his job incredibly well and only once Florian was able to escape his marker in the entire match.

In the 1961 Merdeka Cup, India faced Malaysia, a team that had Abdul Gani in their rank. Gani nutmegged Jarnail twice during the first few minutes where Jarnail reacted by implanting a solid kick on Gani’s face, that rattled Gani and rendered him ineffective for the rest of the match. 

In Jarnail Singh Dhillon’s career, the 1962 Asian games are like an icing on top of a desert. Before the semi-final, he received a deep cut on his head and got several stitches. Syed Abdul Rahim, the then coach of the Indian team thought that it would be risky to play him as a stopper back in defense. So, he made a bold move of deploying him in the center forward position. The move worked like magic. Jarnail teamed very well with the attacking players and helped the Indian team win not only the semi-finals, but also the final of the 1962 Asian games.

Another one of Jarnail’s memorable performance in the Kolkata derby was in 1968 when he was playing from Mohun Bagan club. East Bengal sieged forward again and again, but, Jarnail stood like a mountain on their path and disrupted all their efforts. Finally, Mohun Bagan won this match by 2-0. At the end of his career in 1970, he led the Punjab football team to victory in Santosh trophy and again helped the team to win Santosh trophy as a coach in 1974. 

Jarnail Singh Dhillon’s Awards & Life After Retirement

After retiring from football he was selected as the deputy director of sports for Punjab from 1985-1990 and Director of sports from 1990-1994.

  • He received Arjuna Award in 1964
  • He was the first Indian captain of the Asian All-star team in 1966

Jarnail Singh Dhillon breathed his last in Vancouver, Canada on October 14, 2000, due to asthma issues.

This is all we know about the great Indian defender, Jarnail Singh Dhillon. If you have some more knowledge on this legend please let us know in the comment section.

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