Remarkable Upsets in Volleyball

The presence of passionate spectators at Vadakara revitalized teams that had faded elsewhere, making them fight fiercely on Vadakara's soil...
Remarkable Upsets in Volleyball
MN Rajappan, Jose George, Alex, Jimmy George

KP Suneel Kumar

The multi-talented Kallikkad Ramachandran once wrote in an essay on football:

"Richard Burton, who flew royally among the actors, recorded in his memoirs that when a play was performed on the London stage, with the likes of Sir Winston Churchill in the front row to watch, King Lear, Mark Antony, and Othello would enter the arteries like a plague. The fact that a good game requires a good spectator is also true when it comes to the game of football. The frenzy of those watching the game all around enters the player like an electric wave."

A similar fervor for volleyball exists in Vadakara, which can be considered one of the London stages of Indian volleyball. This is not merely a boastful claim by the locals but a testament from other state players who visited Vadakara from the second half of the 1960s for over a quarter of a century. The presence of passionate spectators there revitalized teams that had faded elsewhere, making them fight fiercely on Vadakara's soil.

Balwant Singh
Balwant Singh

BSF Jalandhar was the glamorous team in Indian volleyball, with Nripjit Singh Bedi as its star in the sixties and Balwant Singh entering the scene in the late sixties. Toppling BSF, the giants of Indian volleyball, was every team's dream. In April 1974, Vadakara witnessed such an extraordinary feat. This followed the FACT Trophy Volleyball Tournament held at Udyogamandal the previous month, where BSF lost to the Artillery Center in the final. In Vadakara, BSF suffered a double defeat in the preliminary round of the ACK Nambiar Memorial All India Tournament, which started in 1967 and had become a prominent event in the country.

In the inaugural match of the 1974 ACK Nambiar tournament on April 11, Premier Tyres, led by MN Rajapan and featuring players like Alex, Jimmy George, Jose George, Devasikutty, PJ Paul, and Joy Thomas, defeated BSF three sets to one. The BSF team, including Ballu, Inder Singh, Bum Singh, Mohinder, Kamaljit, Jagir Singh, and Shivakumar, had won the first set and were leading 5-3 in the second set against SBI on Vishu day when the northern gallery of the stadium unfortunately collapsed.

Nawab Jaan, Raman Rao, Ramalingam, Manoharan.
Nawab Jaan, Raman Rao, Ramalingam, Manoharan.

After the gallery was rebuilt within a week, BSF faced another defeat from SBI, led by Nawab Jaan, Ramana Rao, Ramalingam, Manoharan, Dhanapalan, and Raghuraman. BSF's only consolation was victories against teams like ICF and Artillery Centre.

BSF had won the ACK Nambiar tournament trophy four times before, dominating FACT in the first three and UP Police in the fourth. However, in 1974, the crowd was stunned by BSF's rattled performance in that year.

When Premier Tyres faced SBI in the final, Premier Tyres achieved a memorable victory. This was the year the Jimmy-Jose brothers debuted in club volleyball. Premier Tyres won three-quarters of the dozen tournaments they played that season, with Rajapan also winning the gold medal for the best player in the Vadakara tournament.

Ballu was deeply saddened by the outcome. Returning empty-handed from his favorite place, Vadakara, added to his grief. Even after five decades, the spectators and players of that era still cherish the memory of those shocking victories. Recently, when former State Bank star Manoharan was reminded of those events, he exclaimed, "Five decades! Half a century! Unbelievable!"

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