Indian football team at the Asian Games: 1970 Bangkok
Sportskeeda continues this series by looking back at India’s performance in the 1970 edition.
Goalkeepers: Kuppuswami Sampath (MEG, Bangalore), Bandya Kakade (Bombay).
Backs: Sudhir Karmakar (East Bengal Club), Syed Nayeemuddin (East Bengal Club - CAPTAIN), Chandreshwar Prasad (Mohun Bagan AC), Nirmal (Jhunu) Sengupta (Bengal), Altaf Ahmed (Bengal), Shivdas (Bombay), Kalyan Saha (Bengal).
Half Backs: A. Latif (Bengal), J. Bassi (Bombay), Doraiswamy Nataraj (Mysore), Ajaib Singh (Punjab).
Forwards: Shyam Thapa (East Bengal Club), Subhas Bhowmick (Mohun Bagan AC), Mohammed Habib (East Bengal Club), Amar Bahadur (Mafatlal, Bombay), Magan Singh (Rajasthan), Manjit Singh (Leaders Club, Punjab), Sukalyan Ghosh Dastidar (Mohun Bagan AC).
Coach: GMH Basha (Mysore); Manager: PK Banerjee (Bengal).
Just like in 1966, Bangkok were the hosts in 1970 also and in four years India had assembled a new-look team with plenty of attacking talents like Shyam Thapa, Subhas Bhowmick and Mohammed Habib. There were ten teams competing with two groups of three and one group of four. Once again the top two of each group advanced to the quarter-final group stage and then the top two of each group in that round progressed to the semis. India were drawn alongside hosts Thailand and South Vietnam.
India started the campaign with a 2-2 draw against Thailand and Bhowmick was the star performer as he bagged a brace. The next day India faced South Vietnam and defeated them 2-0 thanks to goals from Habib and Manjit Singh. In the quarter-final, India were drawn with Japan and Indonesia. India started well as they won 3-0 against Indonesia with goals from D Natraj, Magan Singh and Thapa but a narrow 1-0 defeat to Japan saw them progress to the semis as group runners-up.
Burma were the opponents in the semi-finals and the south-east Asian nation proved too strong for India as they won 2-0. India would have to face Japan in the bronze medal match and Japan came into the game as favourites having won when the nations earlier met in the competition. But India produced a gritty display to win 1-0 thanks to a strike from Manjit Singh. India’s standout performer though was Sudhir Karmakar as he expertly man-marked Japan’s best player Kunishige Kamamoto and kept him quiet throughout the game.
Novy Kapadia’s Insight
This was the last time India won a medal at the Asian Games. The team captained by Syed Nayeemuddin had a brilliant forward line and with a little more rest between fixtures they could have won the gold medal. FIFA President Sir Stanley Rous who watched this tournament considered India as the best and the most skilful team of the tournament.
Rous also rated five feet five inches tall Sudhir Karmakar as the best defender in Asia for the way he bottled up Japan’s towering striker Kamamoto in the bronze medal match. Regular stopper back C. Prasad got sick and India did not have anybody to partner Nayeem in central defence so Karmakar opted to play there. Kamamoto was then Asia’s best forward and had finished top-scorer in the 1968 Mexico Olympics. PK Banerjee considers Karmakar’s performance in that match as the best by an Indian defender in international football.
Bangkok staged the 1970 Asian Games reluctantly as hosts Pakistan backed out. The span of the Games was reduced to ten days and India had to play non-stop matches. After beating Indonesia 3-0 in the quarter-finals India was to play Japan in the last group league match on 17 December, followed by the semi-final the next day so it was three matches in three days. The senior players advised the coaches to rest some of them for the match with Japan as win or lose, India would play in the semis in any case.
Coach GMH Basha did not agree and India got fatigued by the time they played the semi-finals against Burma. Still the outcome of this match could have been different if Bhowmick and Magan Singh’s first-half shots had not struck the post and gone in. India faded in the last ten minutes and lost the tie.
India outplayed Japan 1-0 for the bronze medal match with Amar Bahadur Manjit Singh combining for the winning goal.
With a little better planning and a little bit of luck this team had the potential to win the 1970 Asian Games gold medal. Nayeem’s team was the last great Indian team in Asian football and deserved to get more than the bronze.
Round 1 (Group C)
December 10 1970: India 2-2 Thailand – Indian scorer: Subhash Bhowmick (brace)
December 11 1970: India 2-0 South Vietnam – Indian scorers: Mohammad Habib, Manjit Singh
Quarterfinal-League (Group A)
December 15 1970: India 3-0 Indonesia – Indian scorers: D.Natraj, Magan Singh, Shyam Thapa
December 17 1970: India 0-1 Japan
December 18 1970: India 0-2 Burma
December 20 1970: India 1-0 Japan -Indian Scorer: Manjit Singh
Final position: Bronze Medal