Legendary former India footballer Tulsidas Balaram dies aged 87

Tulsidas Balaram died in Kolkata on Thursday after a prolonged illness. Gautam Roy

India's Asian Games gold-medal-winning footballer and Olympian Tulsidas Balaram died in Kolkata on Thursday after a prolonged illness, sources close to his family said.

Balaram was 87 and a widower living in a flat on the banks of Hooghly river in Uttarpara.

The 1962 Asiad champion was hospitalised on December 26 last year and was being treated for urinary infection and abdominal distension.

"His condition did not improve and he breathed his last around 2pm today," a source close to the family told PTI.

"We are grateful to the state government and the sports minister Aroop Biswas for taking good care of him during his last days," he added.

Balaram belonged to the golden generation of Indian football in the 1950s and 60s where he paired with legends such as Chuni Goswami and PK Banerjee, and they came to be known as 'holy trinity'.

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An Arjuna awardee, Balaram's exploits at the 1960 Rome Olympics are well documented. Placed in the 'group of death' with Hungary, France and Peru, India lost the opener to Hungary 1-2 but Balaram covered himself in glory by scoring a 79th-minute goal. He also scored against Peru in the Games. India came close to upsetting France a few days later with Balaram again showing his class.

The Jakarta Asian Games gold, where India beat South Korea 2-1 in the final, was the country's second title triumph in football at the multi-discipline continental games, and the achievement hasn't been repeated since. Besides his ability to score brilliant goals, Balaram was well-known for his amazing ball control, dribbling and passing abilities through a comparatively short but very successful career.

Balaram, who mostly played as a centre-forward or as a left-winger, called it a day in 1963 owing to poor health. His career spanned eight years between 1955 and 1963, before being cut short by tuberculosis at the age of 27.

Having made his international debut against Yugoslavia at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, where India finished fourth, he went on to play 36 matches for the country while finding the net 10 times, including four in the Asian Games.

He represented Bengal and Hyderabad in the Santosh Trophy and tasted success with both states.