Indian legends recall memories of “best technical side of Asia”

NEW DELHI: Facing the dazzling Japanese side who came to Bangkok at the back of winning the bronze medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City – the first-ever Asian country to win an Olympic medal in football – was a herculean task.

But the 20-men Blue Tigers contingent had something else in their mind. Right from the goalkeeper Sampath to forward Amar Bahadur, everyone played the game of their lives to earn the title of “best technical side of Asia” from none other than the-then FIFA President Sir Stanley Rous, as recalled by Subhash Bhowmick, and Shyam Thapa. India rode on an Amar Bahadur strike to beat Japan by a solitary goal to garner the bronze.

“Everyone was expecting to see an India-Japan final. But we faced the bronze-medal-decider. Sampath, Sudhir (Karmakar) everyone played like they were playing for their lives. FIFA President complimented us as the best technical team of Asia. Moreover, he praised Sudhir as the best defender in Asia,” Bhowmick remembered.

Why shouldn’t he? Japan boasted of two of the best Asian forwards at that time — Kunishige Kamamoto and Teruki Miyamoto who had played a pivotal role in their historic Olympic Bronze medal-winning-campaign in Mexico City two years back. Kamamoto scored seven goals in six games to finish at the top of the table. Not only that, he was hailed by none other than Pele as one of the best 40 footballers – the sole Asian footballer to attain the feat.

“Kamamoto was boxed by a 5’5″ defender — that too from India. The title given to Karmakar by the FIFA President was 100% true. Kamamoto was brutal in the air but Sudhir won every single aerial ball. He was so frustrated that he left the ground ten minutes before the final whistle,” Bhowmick continued.

India National Team, Sudhir Karmakar, Shyam Thapa, Subhash Bhowmick, PK Banerjee, Gulam Basha, 1970 Asian Games, Bangkok


The sixth Asian Games was earlier scheduled in Islamabad. Nine months before the show it had to be shifted to Bangkok as they had hosted the prior edition.

“Probably, it was the only occasion when Asian Games was completed within eleven days (December 9-20, 1970). There was not any Games Village and all the contingents were accommodated in separate hotels,” Shyam Thapa, current chairman of AIFF Technical Committee, recalled.

The Blue Tigers, under the coaching of Gulam Mohammed Basha and Pradeep Kumar Banerjee, popularly known as PK, had a shaky start to the campaign. In the opening game against hosts Thailand on December 10, they conceded two goals within the first 17 minutes in front of a 50,000-odd hostile crowd who were cheering in support of the War Elephants.

Skipper Syed Nyemuddin and his boys had to go all-out in search of an opening goal and they did so. “Before the break, I scored one. We knew if we could score another one quickly, Thailand would be shocked. Soon after the second half started, I scored the equaliser,” Bhowmick’s elation was quite palpable.

“I could have scored a hat-trick that day. Habib put in a delicious cross soon after the equaliser but I tried something tricky and missed the sitter. I don’t have anyone but myself to blame for that. I still rue that chance,” he continued.

A rejuvenated India team overpowered South Vietnam on the next day, thanks to one strike apiece from Md. Habib and Magan Singh to advance to the quarterfinals where they were clubbed with heavyweights Japan and Indonesia.

India National Team, Sudhir Karmakar, Shyam Thapa, Subhash Bhowmick, PK Banerjee, Gulam Basha, 1970 Asian Games, Bangkok

“There were a group of talented strikers, every one of them was able to pull off a game on his day. Indonesia held the Korea Republic to a goalless draw in the group stage after a 2-2 draw against Iran. By no means, they were an easy opponent,” Thapa continued, “They showed their resilience in the first half. But, we scored three quick goals within nine minutes and they weren’t ready for that resurgence at all. Nataraj (Doraiswamy), Magan (Singh) and I were on target.”


“The schedule was very taxing as we had to play six matches in nine days. By then, our bodies started to give up. Japan beat us in our next match. They were a side who could run at the same pace throughout the 90 minutes — a supremely fit side,” Thapa said.

The loss against Japan didn’t affect their enviable run too much as they already qualified to the semi-finals. After the gold medal-winning campaign in 1962, another Asian Games medal was in sight.

“We started to believe that we could replicate what Chuni-da (Chuni Goswami), Pradeep-da (Pradeep Banerjee) did eight years ago. Even Pradeep da, who was our coach, used to share stories from their playing days to motivate us,” Karmakar added.

Burma, which was renamed as Myanmar later, was one of the top Asian football playing countries at that time. The South Asian country were clear favourites against the Blue Tigers.

“We couldn’t play to our strength against Burma. Even we didn’t have luck on our side. Magan’s header came off the post and my volley hit the crossbar. Our aspiration of winning the Asian Games gold medal ended abruptly,” Bhowmick shared.

In a process to redeem themselves, the Blue Tigers had to come up with something extraordinary and someone had to emerge as a hero. But, little did anyone imagine that Sudhir Karmakar, a defender with no physical presence, would rise like a phoenix.

“Prasad was our regular central defender but on match-day, he felt a pain on his right foot. Pradeep-da and Basha-sir weren’t ready to take any chance and asked me to fill the void. I was in a dilemma without much choice,” Karmakar informed.

“We knew the demeanour of Kamamoto and what sort of damage he could do to any opponent. As the game continued, I stuck to him like a shadow and tried to intercept the aerial deliveries directed to him. Towards the end of the game, he took a desperate header but Sampath came up with a blinder to deny him. We won the Bronze medal.”

Credits: ISL Media

For Trial related updates: Latest trials updates in Mumbai Football

Also Read: Santana brace denies East Bengal of their first win

Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for all the latest happenings in the world of Indian football.

Footie First to conduct trials for MFA 2nd Division team

Footie first will be conducting trials for its first team which will play in the MFA 2nd Division 2021-22 season. While the club has definitely set standards by winning the…


Companeroes SC to conduct trials for MDFA 1st Division Campaign

Mumbai based MDFA 1st division side Companeroes Sports Club will be conducting open trials for their upcoming 2021-22 season. Players interested in appearing for the trials must have prior experience…


Madanpura FA, Sara FA to host trials for the upcoming MDFA season

Sara Football Academy and Madanpura FA to host trials for MDFA Super division & 2nd division and 3rd division respectively on the 30th August 2021. Sara FA will be hosting…


Mumbai Ultras FC invites all aspiring footballers for a trial

Mumbai Ultras FC is organising their trials for the upcoming season. The Mumbai Ultras play in the MDFA Super Division. The team is focused on the holistic aspects such as…


Oscar SSE to conduct trials for multiple age-groups in Mumbai

Mumbai based Oscar SSE will conduct trials for their youth teams on 17th April at the Karnatak Sports Association ground. Oscar SSE is a 2-star AIFF Accredited Academy plying their…


FC Hydra invites all aspiring footballers in Bengaluru for a Trial

FC Hydra will be holding trials for all the aspiring footballers for the upcoming KSFA C Division League. The club has previously held trials for the Women’s team for the…


Kenkre FC to conduct trials for Women’s Team

Mumbai-based Kenkre FC are slated to conduct trials for their Women’s Football Team on the 25th of February at Goan’s Sports Ground in Churchgate. Kenkre FC have long been regarded…


IKF to dispense free international football exposure for children in India

India Khelo Football (IKF) is a non-profit platform aimed at providing kids from India a fair chance to pursue their dream of playing football internationally. IKF shares its vision to…


IDBI Bank to hold trials for a central defender

After successfully conducting their first round of trials on 21st November, MDFA Super Division outfit are now looking to conduct another trial in search of Central Defenders. With football resuming,…


Chedda Nagar FC set to conduct trials for MDFA Super Division

Chedda Nagar Football Fanatics will be conducting trials to reform their MDFA Super Division squad. Being established in 2011, Chedda Nagar is a renowned name in Mumbai football. The team…