Indian football team at the Asian Games: 1978 Bangkok
Sportskeeda continues this series by looking back at India’s performance in the 1978 edition.
Goalkeepers: Bhaskar Ganguly (East Bengal Club), Bhaskar Maity (Bengal), Surjit Singh.
Defenders: Gurdev Singh (East Bengal Club - CAPTAIN), Chinmoy Chatterjee (East Bengal Club), Shyamal Banerjee (Bengal), Compton Dutta (Bengal), Subrata Bhattacharya (Mohun Bagan AC), Nicholas Pereira, D. Shekharan, G.S. Parmar.
Midfielders: Prasun Banerjee (East Bengal Club), Pushparaj Kumar (Karnataka), A. Devraj Doraiswamy (Karnataka), M.M. Jacob, Thomas Fernandes.
Forwards: Xavier Pius, Francis D'Souza, Mohammed Akbar, Harjinder Singh (JCT Mills), Surajit Sengupta (East Bengal Club), Bidesh Bose (Bengal).
Coach: Arun Ghosh (Bengal); Manager: Ashok Ghosh (Bengal).
India’s results at international level kept getting worse after the 1974 Asian Games and once again they didn’t even take part in the 1976 Asian Cup qualifiers. Bangkok were the hosts again in 1978 and even the place of their bronze medal success in 1970 didn’t bring back the glory days. There were hardly any survivors from the 1974 team but a key member of India’s 1962 gold medal winning team, Arun Ghosh, was the head coach.
This time there were 14 participants so two groups had only three teams and India’s group was one of them. India were drawn with Bangladesh and Malaysia and they progressed to the semi-final group stage despite winning just one game. They started with a narrow 1-0 defeat against Malaysia but the 3-0 victory over Bangladesh thanks to goals from Bidesh Bose, Harjinder Singh and Xavier Pius was enough to take India to the last eight.
However India were overwhelming underdogs in the quarter-final stage as their group had 1976 Asian Cup runners-up Kuwait, third-placed Iraq and North Korea. India lost all three games, conceding 12 goals including a 6-1 hammering against Kuwait. Their only two goals were scored by Surajit Sengupta and Devraj Doraiswamy.
Novy Kapadia’s Insight
For the 1978 Asian games India opted for a new coach in Arun Ghosh and a new-look team. Only central defender Gurdev Singh, who became captain was retained from the 1974 team. The team had a lot of talented young players like goalkeeper Bhaskar Ganguly, wingers Bidesh Bose, Harjinder Singh and Surojit Sengupta and skilful Xavier Pius.
However many of them had a timid temperament and got overawed in the tougher matches. India reached the semi-final league stage but were in a tough group and lost all three matches to Kuwait, Iraq and North Korea.
This Indian team had talent but lacked desire. During the 1970s many Indian players particularly those from Bengal went through a strange phase when they preferred to play club football, which offered good money in transfers, rather than for the national team.
December 10 1978: India 0-1 Malaysia
December 14 1978: India 3-0 Bangladesh
Indian scorers: Bidesh Bose, Harjinder Singh, Xavier Pius
December 16 1978: India 1-6 Kuwait
Indian scorer: Surajit Sengupta
December 18 1978: India 1-3 North Korea
Indian scorer: Devraj Doraiswamy
December 19 1978: India 0-3 Iraq
Final position: Eliminated from semi-final group stage