National Men's Team U20
CC Jacob: The man who braved a storm and immortalised the title
28 Apr 2024

Fifty years ago, on April 30, 1974, India created history when they won the Asian Youth Championship title jointly with Iran. is running a series of articles on this momentous achievement. In this article, the renowned wing-back CC Jacob has spoken about his treasured experience as a part of the winning squad. 

Sruti Chakraborty
AIFF Media Team

NEW DELHI: Nineteen-year-old CC Jacob was a rookie wide-eyed left full-back, who had no clue about the pressure and adversity of international football when he arrived in Bangkok in April 1974 for the Asian Youth Championship.

It was a baptism of fire, yet a bonding experience for the teenager from Kerala. In the final against Iran, he was brutally fouled, punched in the stomach and was a victim of every unsporting trick that a footballer can face on the pitch.

But on the night of April 30, 1974, when India drew 2-2 with mighty Iran to emerge joint champions, Jacob, in the Indian defence, was like the wall topped with spikes to deter intruders. He was simply unbeatable.

As the referee blew the final whistle in front of a 15,000-strong crowd at the Suphachalasai Stadium, Jacob looked up at the sky, silently expressing gratitude to the stars. It was an unforgettable night for both India and Jacob, who returned home with the winners’ medal in his maiden appearance in National colours.

“It’s been 50 years now,” recalls Jacob fondly from his Kochi home. “I remember I joined the Indian camp for the Asian Youth Championship almost immediately after I helped Kerala win their first Santosh Trophy title in Kochi in the 1973-74 season. If joining the National camp was a great feeling, then winning an international title in my first appearance for India gave me another level of satisfaction,” said Jacob.

India kicked off their Asian Youth Championship group stage campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Laos. Facing a strong Burma side in the second match, India matched them stride for stride, getting a narrow 1-0 win. In the final group encounter, India battled to a 2-2 draw against Hong Kong. 

Advancing to the quarter-finals, India held Singapore to a draw before clinching victory in the penalty shootout (4-1). In the semi-finals, India triumphed over Thailand 2-1 and in the final against Iran, India played a thrilling 2-2 draw in extra-time. 

“I remember during the extra time with Iran, a rival forward punched me in my stomach, and I thought I would die of pain, but I continued playing because that’s how we were trained to play,” said Jacob proudly. 

“Before the match, our coach Arun Ghosh told me, “If a goalkeeper comes out of his position, it is the responsibility of the last defender on the line to go to the near post and save it.” And I did exactly the same. In extra time, I made two goal-line saves in a tightly contested match. It made a huge impact,” Jacob mentioned. 

The team trained at the Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports ground in Patiala under the coaching of Syed Abdus Salaam and Arun Ghosh before heading to Thailand. 

“After I came to the Indian team coaching camp, which was held for nearly 40 days, we had training sessions with seniors and juniors. It was really useful and I still remember that we had the chance to play some matches against the seniors, which was the biggest advantage we had before going to the championship in Bangkok,” he said.

“I played as a right wing-back and used to overlap for the attacks. I used to strictly follow the suggestions of the coaches. The pattern continued even after reaching Bangkok. We never roamed around the city or went out shopping. We remained focussed on the championship, which was our primary objective. The Indian community also supported us well. Sometimes they used to bring Indian food for us to our hotel,” Jacob recalled.

After the championship was over, Jacob and Harjinder Singh figured in the list of the 20 best players of the tournament picked up by the journalists covering the meet. It was named the Asian All-Star Team.

“Harjinder and I were named on the Asian All-Star team. Our captain, Shabbir Ali, and vice-captain, Prasun Banerjee, were great players and leaders. Without them, we would not have won the title. Everyone else also contributed to the team’s success, which is still spoken about,” Jacob said. 

The former India player lauded the All India Football Federation’s initiative to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of India’s 1974 Asian Youth Championship triumph on Tuesday, April 30, 2024, in Kolkata and to felicitate the players.

“I am thankful to AIFF President Mr. Kalyan Chaubey, and the Executive Committee members for this great initiative,” he said.

The city of Bangkok remained an integral part of Jacob’s international career. “My journey with the National team began and ended in Bangkok. Once I graduated to the senior level, I remained a part of the Indian team till 1983. That year, in the King’s Cup in Bangkok, I suffered an injury and decided to hang up my boots,” he said.

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