'The most stylish of his generation'

As the legendary footballer T Shanmugam lay in his glass casket dressed in a sharp grey suit made to fit, it was easy to understand why people often used words like ‘stylish’, ‘sophisticated’ and ‘classy’ to describe his off-field persona.

On a sunny Friday, none of those references was made. Instead, everyone who gathered outside his two-storey house in the heart of Indiranagar, reflected on the great man’s character on the field and his contribution to Indian football.

While some people closer to him refused to believe that India’s oldest living footballer was no more, others chose to reminisce in what they fondly referred to as the ‘glory days of Indian football’.

“He was the tower of strength. There is no one to come out of here with that kind of calibre,” said Asian Games gold medallist I Arumainayagam. “He was one of the most influential and certainly the most stylish football players I have ever come across. He did not believe in playing rough and he also never shouted at any of his team-mates. He always used to teach his players and helped educate them on the field.

I used to sit and watch him play here and he was a treat to watch. He was so stylish with the ball that when he ran, it seemed like he was dancing. But what really set him apart was that he was a brilliant human being. I can honestly say that there can only be one Shanmugam.”

The former Mohun Bagan player further said: “I can surely say that he is the last real legend of Indian football. He influenced me and players like Bruno Coutinho.”

Former India skipper Coutinho said: “He was like a father to me and he was a great coach. The biggest thing we learnt under him was discipline, and we also learnt to shelve our attitude. He helped us win several tournaments including the Rover’s Cup and the Federation Cup. All I can in this state of shock is that football just lost one of its greatest human beings.”

AIFF condoles

The All India Football Federation condoled the demise of Shanmugam saying:
“Shanmugam will be alive in his achievements. He was a legendary footballer and someone who has been the inspiration of so many generations. May he Rest in Peace,” said Kushal Das, AIFF general secretary.

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