40 Years On: Volleyball's unforgettable duel in Kozhikode

Relive the unforgettable showdown in Kozhikode 40 years ago, as Kerala and Indian Railways battled for volleyball supremacy. Legendary players, intense matches, and enduring memories - a must-read for volleyball enthusiasts!
40 Years On: Volleyball's unforgettable duel in Kozhikode

KP Suneel Kumar

Forty years have passed; forty summers with the length of forty long winters. Even after forty long summers and winters, that Sunday evening’s (12th February 1984) two matches on the final day of the IV Federation Cup Volleyball Tournament at Kozhikode still reside fresh in the memory of volleyball followers. Yes, those were two top-notch matches that commanded the attention of everyone.

In the women’s 4 team round robin, having outplayed both West Bengal and P & T the last match between Kerala and Indian Railways turned out be the virtual title clash. The match gained greater significance as both teams had competed for the National title at Guntur a month earlier, earning their qualification for the Federation Cup. Kerala captained by Geetha Valappil and legendary spiker Saly Joseph, Beena Chacko, Anandavally, Jaisamma Moothedam and Lizikkutty Abraham among its rank fought tooth and nail against National champions Railways fielding Vinitha Dubey, Rema Pandey, S Sreemathy, Beena Varghese and Usha under the captaincy of Krishna Tarfdar. Saly who had been in devastating form suffered injury at 8-12 in the deciding fifth set had to retire and the home team succumbed without adding a solitary score. Saly unleashing smashes with perfect timing, awesome power and graceful style was a sight to behold.

In the men’s section Kerala needed winning at least 2 sets in their last outing in the preliminary round to advance to the super league on better quotient of a three way tie. But Haryana consisting of Dalel Singh, Om Prakash and Balkar Singh trounced the home team which fielded skipper N C Chacko, Johnson Jacob, Danikutty David, Rajeevan Nair, Sebastian George and Jomy P Abraham conceding just a solitary set. Thus Haryana took sweet revenge on their defeat in the semi final of Guntur National Championship.

In the four team super league as Indian Railways and Tamil Nadu outclassed both Rajastan and Haryana the last match became the ultimate decider. The crowd losing the opportunity to cheer the home team was expected to stand by Indian Railways which was trained by Keralite P V Mani and had four Keralites – Cyril C Vallore, Udayakumar, Abdul Razak and P P Pradeep Kumar – in their playing six. The mammoth crowd did really enjoy the merciless assault launched by the intimidating, awe generating Cyril, the cerebral Uday and the high soaring Razack off the balls set by their mellowed skipper R Manokaran. But the crowd was solidly behind Tamil Nadu as well.

Tamil Nadu consisting of Kareemulla, Mariswamy, Raghupathy, Krishnan and Murali under the tutelage of Ramana Rao put up scintillating performance. Among the bunch it was Kareemulla who received the adulation for his gritty resistance to the challenges of Cyril-Uday-Razack trio which was in live wire form. Incidentally Tamil Nadu is the only team which could stretch Railwaymen to five sets in the tournament and the Guntur Nationals. On both occasions Tamil Nadu surrendered 2-3. Railways achieved double crown, a repeat of the feat they had had at Guntur nationals.

Volleyball enthusiasts, even after four decades, still fondly recall the moments of those two matches in their full glory.

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