A gentle giant - The late Gurcharan Singh Parmar
Rugged, hard-tackling and dependable international defender Gurcharan Singh Parmar lost the battle to cancer at the age of 62 years. During his playing career from 1974 till 1988 he marshaled the JCT defence with aplomb and was rarely beaten by an opposing forward. He remained a one club man and despite offers from Mumbai and Kolkata clubs never left the safety of a job at JCT. After his football career was over he worked at the JCT Mills till his retirement.
Over 6ft tall, Parmar was commanding in the air and despite a lack of pace his tackling, man marking and interception were quite exceptional. He did not have exceptional ball playing skills but his long range distribution was very accurate.
In international football, Parmar was a late bloomer. He was first chosen for India at the age of 26 years for the 1978 Bangkok Asian Games. Parmar came into the national reckoning because of two brilliant matches he played in domestic football for JCT in the Durand Cup final in January 1978 and the Santosh trophy final for Punjab a month later.
In January 1978 a spirited JCT Phagwara took on star-studded Mohun Bagan in the Durand final. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. Parmar excelled in foiling Bagan’s attacking quartet consisting of Subash Bhowmick, Mohammed Akbar, Shyam Thapa and Bidesh Bose. With the dynamic Gautam Sarkar and playmaker Mohammed Habib in midfield, Bagan were a brilliant attacking unit and won the triple crown that year, the IFA Shield, Rovers Cup and Durand Cup. JCT nearly upset Bagan in the Durand Cup final.
They led courtesy an Inder Singh goal and Bagan struggled to equalise. JCT’s goalkeeper Surjit Singh spilled a shot and Shyam Thapa darted into to equalise.
The Durand Cup did not use the penalty shoot-out rule but instead opted for a replay. Again JCT led through an Inder Singh goal. JCT’s defence led by the sturdy Parmar foiled many Bagan attacks but Bhowmick equalised just before half time and Akbar scored the match winner mid-way through the second half.
A month later Punjab met Bengal in the Santosh trophy final in Kolkata. Parmar had excelled throughout the tournament especially against powerful Kerala in the semi final. The final again ended in a 1-1 draw. Bengal’s star studded forward line finally prevailed in the replay 3-1. But Parmar’s sterling displays in both finals were noticed and he got chosen for the national team later that year.
At the 1978 Bangkok Asiad, he did not play any game as coach Arun Ghosh opted for skipper Gurdev Singh of Punjab and the highly talented Subrata Bhattacharya as his two central defenders. When Parmar finally played a match for India, he was 28 years old in the 1980 Pre-Olympics, arguably the oldest player ever to make his debut for the national team. He was at his peak during the 1970s, but Parmar was denied a place in the national team because India had many quality central defenders.
From the 1972 Pre-Olympics till the 1978 Bangkok Asian Games, Gurdev Singh famous for his first time and long clearances was a first choice defender. Gurdev was either partnered by Shymal Ghosh or Pradeep Chowdhury known for his excellent man marking. As Shymal and Pradeep faded the talented Subrata Bhattacharya, who was commanding in the air and had exceptional game reading skills, became a first choice in the national team.
Gurdev’s international career came to an end after his transfer to East Bengal in the 1979 season, which lasted for a few months and his subsequent return to Punjab Police. Gurdev left East Bengal in controversial circumstances in November 1979 and had to wait six months before he was allowed to play for Punjab Police. He became rusty during that period and got ignored for the national team. Parmar seized the opportunity and never looked back.
From 1980 till the end of the 1982 Asian Games, Parmar was first choice in the Indian team. During this period he played in the 1980 pre-Olympics, the 1981 and 1982 Merdeka tournaments, the 1982 Asian Games and several other international competitions that India took part in prior to the Delhi Asiad. During this period he forged a redoubtable partnership with Manoranjan Bhattacharya. They were both pillars of strength in the Indian defence.
Parmar got his first chance in the 1980 Pre-Olympics tournament held in Singapore. Former central defender, the legendary late Jarnail Singh was the coach along with the astute GMH Basha of Karnataka. Jarnail recognized a kindred spirit in Parmar, the same reliability, hard tackling, never-say-die attitude and aerial domination. Parmar was then 28 years old and there was criticism that he was past the age to make his international debut.
However Jarnail and the late Basha stuck to their guns and chose Parmar and the rest is history. On his debut he excelled in the matches against formidable Iran (lost 0-2) and North Korea (lost 1-2). He also excelled in the 1981 Merdeka tournament when India reached the semi finals before losing 0-2 to Sao Paulo FC, of Brazil.
P.K. Banerjee became national coach in 1981 and spent two years preparing the squad for the 1982 Asiad. A promising, tall and powerful central defender Anthony Rebello of Salgaocar (Goa) was amongst the probables in the national camp. There was pressure on the national coach that Parmar should be replaced by the younger Rebello. P.K. Banerjee, however rejected all such pleas and insisted that Parmar was the better choice based on his big match temperament and determination.
Parmar had a phlegmatic temperament and never got rattled during a match. His composure was remarkable and though he tackled hard he never resorted to foul play or violent conduct on the field. A model professional he was a leader in defence. Due to his height he was good at set pieces and in the 1976 Durand semi final equalised for JCT against East Bengal in the last minute with a firm header.
His finest hour was in the group league match on 24 November, 1982 against China at his favourite ground, the Ambedkar stadium. In the 1974 Tehran Asian Games, China had routed India 7-1. The fear of another big defeat haunted the Indian players and Coach P.K. Banerjee before the match against China at the Delhi Asiad. However it was Parmar who calmed down his team-mates. On the field he led by example and along with Manoranjan throttled the Chinese attack. India led 2-1 with goals by Kartick Sett and Shabbir Ali before China equalised as the match ended in a 2-2 draw.
Unlike the father, his son JS Parmar was a ball playing winger. He was a predominantly left-footed player, who functioned effectively as a retracting winger. He played for Border Security Force and also for the junior Indian team. He later played club football in Goa but never made it to the senior national team.