The 92-year old who led the Goan club to two consecutive Federation Cup titles in the 1980's breathed his last at his residence in Bangalore...One of the true stalwarts of Indian football and Olympian, Thulukhanamm Shanmugam passed away at his home in Bangalore on Thursday night. He was 92. Born on the 19th of June, 1920 he was the oldest Indian footballer alive. His demise is one of the biggest to rock the country’s football community in recent times.
The talismanic midfielder was one of the mainstays of the Indian team which took to the field at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. But perhaps the greatest moment of his career came a year earlier when he was part of the Indian side that won gold at the 1951 Asian games held in Delhi.
Shanmugam was a student of Austin Town and RBANMS High Schools respectively. He played for Maharaja Socials and Bangalore Student Football Club in the Bangalore Senior Division League. But his big opportunity came when he joined the Sullivan Police Sports Club of the Bangalore Police Force in 1941.
"Football has given me everything. I am very thankful for the wonderful game as it kept me in shape and continues to give me everything I need to this day. I have always stayed away from bad habits. I have not smoked or had a drink (alcohol) in my life and that is the secret of my long life,” he said in an interview with the Deccan Herald on the occasion of his 90th birthday two years ago.
When asked how he was attracted towards the game? He said, “I started by watching the Britishers playing at the Garrison ground and Police ground. We used to practice with tennis balls in school and it helped us learn how to control the ball.
“They taught me a lot. They always encouraged us and it played a big part in what I have become.”
Reflecting on the time when boots were made mandatory in 1952, the midfield maestro said playing barefoot gave the Indian team a massive advantage and that they struggled to adapt to the rule change at the time.
Salgaocar Football Club, its President, General Secretary, on-field and administrative staff deeply mourned the passing of T Shanmugam, the football legend and a homegrown hero.
He was a part of India's gold medal team at the 1951 Delhi Asian Games and was Salgaocar FC’s longest serving coach and will always stand out top for his coaching abilities and his strict discipline on and off the field.
Expressing his sorrow on Shanmugam’s passing away, Salgaocar FC President Shivanand Salgaocar said "He is one of the finest coaches that we had and an absolute gentleman." Salgaocar has often stated that Shanmugam changed the style of football in Goa and actually introduced the renowned Tiki-Taka style of Spanish football which was associated with Salgaocar in the 70’s and 80’s.
"He was an upright police officer, a great player and an exemplary Coach. But most importantly he was a great human being and we offer our deepest condolences to his family," he stated.
Even with the Indian team, Shanmugam's influence was hard to miss. It was the duo of technical director Shanmugam and captain Mauricio Afonso who helped India face up to mighty teams like Russia, Hungary and Poland in the inaugural edition of the Nehru Cup at Fatorda in 1989.
Shanmugam represented Mysore state (now Karnataka) with distinction for a major part of his career winning the Santosh Trophy in 1946 and 1952. He turned down more lucrative offers from teams in Kolkata, the traditional hotbed of football in India.
"I would have made a lot of money in Calcutta (now Kolkata ) but Salgaocar treated me quite well, and most importantly,with respect. I never wanted to leave," Shanmugam had said.
After hanging up his boots he enjoyed a successful stint in management. He led Karnataka to a Santosh trophy triumph before guiding Goa’s Salgaocar to two Federation Cup wins.
Apart from being a famous footballer, Shanmugam was a police officer and served in the Mysore City Police for thirty-five years. In that time he worked as a security officer for two governors.
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