Legendary footballer Shyam Thapa was conferred the 2023 Sportstar Aces Lifetime Achievement Award at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai on Monday.
“Good evening all. Thanks to The Hindu group and Sportstar awards jury for choosing me. I thought I was too old now to get this award but thanks to all. I am still coaching and looking after some youth academies. I am still hoping one day, India will play a World Cup. India won a bronze medal at the 1970 Asian Games. It’s been more than 40 years since; at least we should’ve played the World Cup. That’s my ultimate dream,” Thapa said after receiving the award.
Hailed as one of the best attackers to have played for the country, Thapa helped India win the bronze in the Merdeka tournament and the Bangkok Asian Games in 1970. He scored a goal each in India’s 3-0 victory against Indonesia at the Asian Games and the 3-1 over Malaysia in the Merdeka tournament.
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Thapa had a memorable debut to his professional career when he scored a hat-trick for East Bengal against Rajasthan Football Club in the Calcutta League in 1966. He played for Gorkha Brigade from 1967-69 before resuming his professional career in 1970 and helping East Bengal win the Durand Cup.
Thapa switched to Mohun Bagan from East Bengal in 1977 after signing a record contract deal and soon became a star in the green-and-maroon jersey. His claim to fame was the famous bicycle kick that he scored against traditional rival East Bengal in August 1978.
He was with Mohun Bagan for seven consecutive years and helped the side win a host of national and local titles. Thapa is also remembered for scoring a goal against the New York Cosmos, spearheaded by the king of football Pele, in an exhibition match in 1977 at the Eden Gardens. Mohun Bagan drew the match 2-2. In July 2022, Thapa was conferred the Mohun Bagan Ratna, the club’s highest honour.
The 74-year-old managed the Nepal national team and East Bengal, and also served as the chairman of the All-India Football Federation’s (AIFF) technical committee.
Former India cricketer Sunil Gavaskar, former India hockey captain M. M. Somaya, chess great Viswanathan Anand, former India football skipper Bhaichung Bhutia, Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra and Olympians Anjali Bhagwat and Aparna Popat are the members of the Sportstar Aces 2023 jury.
The event is supported by IDFC First Bank, Indian Oil, India Cements, United India, Ramaiah University, Experimenta Science Center GD Naidu Charity, Finolex Pipes, LIC, BPCL, Samsonite, Big Basket, Nippon Paint, CRICHQ, Wordswork, NewsX and Casagrand.