Jarnail Singh Biography
Jarnail is a former Indian footballer who was born on 20th February 1936 in Hoshiarpur, Punjab. Jarnail played as a stopper back in the playing eleven and was one of the best in the role during his era.
Jarnail Singh was one of the stalwarts of the Indian football team which won the 1962 Asian Games.
Jarnail was only sixteen years old when he started playing football for the Khalsa Sporting Club. In 1957, he made his dream move to Calcutta when he joined Rajasthan Club.
Jarnail’s beginnings in Kolkata were not easy. He was used as a centre half which was an unusual position for him. His tough tackling style was not appreciated by the Calcuttan crowd.
Mohun Bagans' coach Arun Sinha realised Jarnail’s talent and potential and offered him a spot in the team. Jarnail accepted the offer and in 1959, he started his legendary career for The Mariners. Sinha started playing him as a stopper-back and had a tough first season.
However, his career turned around when he rose to the occasion during the Calcutta derby of that season.
Jarnail soon made his debut for the Indian national team and along with Chuni Goswami formed one of the memorable partnerships in Indian football. The players were completely opposite to each other in terms of their playing style but complemented each other very well on the field.
Rise to Glory
In the 1961 Merdeka Cup, India faced Malaysia, a team which had “Asian Puscas” Abdul Gani in their ranks. Gani had nutmegged Jarnail twice in the initial few minutes of the game after which Jarnail reacted by landing a solid kick on the face of Gani in a follow through after clearing a high ball. Gani was rattled and remained ineffective for the rest of the game.
In the 1960 Rome Olympics, India faced Hungary and Jarnail was tasked with containing Florian Albert, the top scorer of the 1962 FIFA World Cup. Jarnail performed the job admirably and only once did Albert escape Jarnail throughout the game.
However, the performance in the 1962 Asian Games remains the highest point of Jarnail’s career. Before the semifinal, Jarnail suffered a severe cut and received several stitches. Indian coach Syed Abdul Rahim thought it would be risky to play him in the defence. Such was Jarnail’s influence in a game that Rahim thought it would be unwise to drop him as well. So, the coach deployed him as a forward, a position with which Jarnail started his career. The move worked magically as India won the semifinal and final to win the gold medal with Jarnail scoring in the final with his head.
Another of Jarnail’s memorable performances came during the wee days of his career during a Kolkata derby in 1968. His side took the lead early on with the help of his assist. In the second half, East Bengal sieged forward again and again but Jarnail stood tall and denied them any opening. Towards the end, East Bengal finally beat the Bagan goalkeeper but Jarnail effected a goal-line clearance from which Mohun Bagan scored another goal.
The lowest point of Jarnail’s football career would remain the initial days of his Kolkata days. He had a bad run for Rajasthan Club and had a disappointing first season with Mohun Bagan as he failed to cope up with the crowd expectations and pressure.
After arriving in Kolkata, Jarnail played for the Rajasthan Club in 1957. He joined Mohun Bagan, a season later and remained with the Black and Maroons till the end of his career.
Jarnail took over the captaincy of Mohun Bagan from Chuni Goswami in 1965. Mohun Bagan won a hattrick of Durand Cup titles under him.
In 1966, Jarnail Singh was selected as the captain of the Asian All-Star team. It is considered to be an incredible feat for an Indian.
After Jarnail quit Mohun Bagan in 1969, he led the Punjab team to the Santosh Trophy title in 1970.
Jarnail Singh was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1964.
Jarnail retired from the game after winning the Santosh Trophy with Punjab. In 1974, he coached the Punjab team to Santosh Trophy success.
He was elected as the Deputy Director of Sports for Punjab between 1985 and 1990, and then as Director between 1990 and 1994.
Jarnail died in Vancouver, Canada on 14th October 2000 after battling asthmatic disorder.