P. T. Usha, who?

The star athlete of yesteryear, who arrived at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium in South Kolkata to be with her wards competing in the National School Games, was stopped at the gate by a volunteer because he could not recognise her!

Many will agree that the name P. T. Usha is synonymous with Indian athletics. But the fact that someone failed to recognise her and barred her from entering the venue of the 53rd National School Games in Kolkata recently was deplorable.

Usha, who arrived at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium in South Kolkata to be with her wards competing in the Games as part of a huge Kerala contingent, was stopped at the gate by a volunteer because he could not recognise her!

A shell-shocked Usha tried to explain who she was but all her efforts were in vain. A handful of journalists who were around took up the issue and finally she was allowed entry.

“I did not know what to say when the volunteer stopped me from entering the stadium. I wanted go up to the stands to watch my trainees. I had no intention of entering the competition arena,” she explained.

Usha was critical of the cinder track at the stadium. She feared serious injury to the up and coming talent who took part in the Games. In hindsight, it seems the organisers of the Games took the opportunity to snub the great lady for being critical.

Some 30 years ago, Usha herself participated in School Games athletics before making it big. “I have never seen a worst organised meet than this one,” she quipped. She was upset with the poor food and accommodation, and the facilities at the Stadium provided for the competitors.

That Kerala won the overall championship in the School Games was some solace for Usha.

* * * When Chuni turned 70


Memories came in waves for Subhimal Goswami (in pic, with swimmer Bula Chowdhury) . Very few can relate to this name as the nickname, Chuni (meaning gem), obfuscated the real forename of one of the greatest sportsman of the country.

For Chuni Goswami, who just turned 70, it was time to reflect on the past that was steeped in sporting glory. Chuni had many of the city’s sports fraternity by his side during this trip down memory lane. The venue — the 195-year-old Calcutta Town Hall — chosen to commemorate the birthday of the legendary footballer, who turned septuagenarian on January 15, 2008, was apt.

Goswami, who has the rare distinction of playing both football and cricket with equal felicity, had for company another sportsman of equal distinction — former India captain and coach Ajit Wadekar, who flew down from Mumbai to join in the birthday celebrations of one of his close friends.

Wadekar recounted the days when he played against Chuni Goswami in the Ranji Trophy.

The greatest adulation for Goswami’s footballing genius came from another celebrated footballer and team-mate, P. K. Banerjee. Going back to the summer of 1962, the two most celebrated forwards of Indian football exchanged eulogies and recalled those thrilling moments when the two scored goals against different opponents during India’s triumph in the Asian Games in Jakarta. Goswami was the captain then.

“Ethics and fellow-feeling transformed us into a formidable team,” said Goswami, recalling India’s golden performance that happened almost 46 years ago.

Drawing inspiration from the glorious past, Goswami, who was the founder-director of the hugely successful Tata Football Academy, expressed his desire to launch another academy. This sent the audience into raptures.

* * * 500 is the number

K. Prem Kumar, Member-in-charge-Tennis, Mylapore Club, Chennai, made an interesting observation recently during a press conference to announce the T. S. Santhanam Memorial National Veteran’s Tennis Championship. He compared P. Narasimhan (in pic) , a veteran tennis official of high standing, with M. A. M. Ramaswamy, an industrialist and a doyen of horse racing.

While Ramaswamy has won more than 500 classic races, Narasimhan has been a referee for more than 500 tournaments, including the Satellite tournaments and the National Championships in all parts of the country.

Narasimhan, aged 63, has been a linesman, an umpire, a chair umpire and a referee.

From the dais, Prem asked Narasimhan, the chief referee of the national veteran’s tournament, as to how many tournaments he had officiated (as a referee) so far.

To which Narasimhan replied graciously: “Around 500”.

By S. Sabanayakan, Amitabha Das Sharma and K. Keerthivasan