Indian football has forgotten Neville D’Souza's family, laments 80-year wife

"How can common people recognise me where the Indian football fraternity has forgotten Neville and me both!"

Written by: Sujata Sarkar
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Kolkata, Dec 2: On the every first day of the month, an 80-year-old lady is seen standing in the long queue in front of a State Bank of India (SBI) branch office in Byculla in Mumbai.

She goes to the bank to withdraw the interest money from her late husband's fixed deposit. Seven years ago, for once only her husband was given a paltry amount of money as an honour by the Union sports ministry and he had made it a fixed deposit in the bank looking forward to the future of his wife.

Indian football has forgotten Neville D’Souza, laments 80-year wife

Nobody can recognise the lady. Lyra D'Souza, while speaking over phone from Mumbai on Thursday (December 1), laughed and said, "How can common people recognise me where the Indian football fraternity has forgotten Neville and me both!"

Neville D'Souza may be a forgotten hero today. But he was one of the most glamorous footballers between 1950s and 1960s. He was the only Indian striker to have scored a hat-trick in Melbourne Olympics in 1956.

According to Badru Banerjee, captain of that team, "Australians were a seeded team in that Olympics. Naturally they were stunned and so enraged after the defeat at home they demanded a return match against us. And in that return match also we won courtesy Neville’s superb brace. In Melbourne we were very close to bronze medal.

"We would have had the covetous medal if we had not made the draw against Yugoslavia in the semi-final. And in that 1-1 draw match Neville was our scorer. I can still remember Neville, deceiving two central defenders down the middle and chipped the ball with impeccable measurement over the advancing goalkeeper to give India the leads in that match."

But Lyra said, "Only Badru remembers. He calls me sometimes. Otherwise, in last 36 years of Neville’s death I have not received any phone call from any other former Indian footballer."

Even when Union sports ministry and All India Football Federation (AIFF) had jointly organised a felicitation programme for the former Olympians in 2009, Neville was initially forgotten!

Lyra said, "Only Badru took the initiative and then Neville’s name was included in the list of Olympians."

Neville had also represented the country in hockey. His wife lamented saying, "Nobody even bothers to try to know whether there is anybody alive in Neville's family today."

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