Soccer legend Sailen Manna passes away

Kolkata: Olympian and 1951 Asian Games gold medal winning football captain Sailen Manna died at a private hospital in the wee hours today. Manna was 87 and is survived by his wife and daughter.

Ailing for more than a year, Manna`s condition turned critical on Sunday night and he was rushed to a Salt Lake hospital around 11 pm. "He was put on life support… But his condition did not improve. My daughter was with him. And the sad news came around 1.55 pm," his wife Abha Manna said.

Known as one of the best Indian defenders who went on to become a captain of high repute, he made his first international appearance in 1948 London Olympics.

Manna was the captain of India in the 1952 Olympics and a member of the 1954 Asian Games team. He was awarded the Padmashree in 1971. A graduate of the Surendranath College in the city, Manna started his playing career for Howrah Union, then a club in the second division Calcutta Football League in 1940.

Known for his powerful freekicks, Manna switched to Mohun Bagan after a couple of seasons and continued playing for the club for a period of 19 years till his retirement in 1960. He was captain of Mohun Bagan from 1950-1955. The club conferred him `Mohun Bagan Ratna` in 2001.

Among other honours, he was included in the list of the 10 best captains of the world by English FA in 1953 and awarded the `Footballer of the Millennium` by the All India Football Federation in 2000.

Manna was instrumental in shaping careers of many footballers of his generation. One among them was former Olympian striker Shew Mewa Lall who died in 2008.

In an interview to PTI before his death, Mewa Lall had said "we have learnt many things from him. He was a leader per excellance. "But at the same time, he was very friendly," said Mewa Lall, who scored the match winning goal against Iran in 1951 Asian Games.