Gilbertson Sangma: man with the golden boot

GUWAHATI, Nov 20 – That was a sunny day of September 1976. Han Yang University 
of Korea came here to play an exhibition football match against Assam Police at 
the Nehru Stadium. The Korean students were the champions of the DCM Trophy 
that year and immediately after the Delhi tournament they visited the city. The 
Nehru Stadium was jam-packed and the cops were trailing 0-1 till the 85th 
minute of the match. Suddenly winger Brajen Brahma sent a floater from the 
right flank. A police forward took the ball on his thigh and on the rise, the 
acrobatic forward unleashed a side volley. The ball rested in the net without 
giving the Korean goalkeeper any scope to punch it away. The gem of a goal sent 
the whole stadium into frenzy. Incidentally, that was the only goal conceded by 
the Korean team in their Indian sojourn. The striker was no other than 
Gilbertson Sangma, undoubtedly the best footballer Assam has ever produced so 

Sangma was the ‘Guest of the Month’ of the Guwahati Press Club on Tuesday and 
had a lively interaction with media persons and his followers. Born in 
Dibrugarh in 1954, Sangma took the game at an early age and started practising 
with anything spherical by kicking at a wall in the police barrack as his 
father was an policeman. Witnessing stars like Kamala Nath, Subir Choudhury, 
Chandra Mohan Ganju, young Gilbert also started dreaming of becoming a 
footballer. His dream came true when in 1971 he joined the Assam Police and got 
the chance to be with his idols during the training period at Dergaon. That was 
the beginning. The God-gifted player did not have to look back since then and 
became a regular player of the Assam Police team since 1972.

He played football at a stretch for long 17 years from 1971 to 1987 scoring 
numerous goals in all the major tournaments of the country and during that 
marathon period, he enthralled the crowd in every nook and corner of the State. 
He also led the Assam team in the Santosh Trophy and represented the Indian 
team in 1975. He toured Indonesia and Malaysia with the senior India team. But 
interestingly, he did not play any tournament in the junior level.

Recalling his Bordoloi Trophy days Sangma revealed, Assam Police was the 
leading force in this coveted 

tournament and lifted the trophy on several occasions. The Calcutta giants — 
Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohameddan Sporting — always had respect and fear 
for the team. In 1971 Assam Police defeated Md Sporting of Calcutta in the 
final. But that time Sangma was not in the team. Recalling the 1981 summit 
clash of the tournament, when the policemen downed Dempo Club of Goa, he was 
the hero of the final being the scorer of the winning goal. 

With his scintillating skills and speed, with and without ball, and accurate 
shooting, he became the darling of the crowd but a headache for the opponent 
defenders. He had the capacity to dodge an opponent defender within a fraction 
of a second and could plan to outsmart the tough defenders before they could 
understand him.

On the dismal state of the Bordoloi Trophy Sangma said during their time people 
loved to see the Assam Police team in the Nehru Stadium. They had players like 
Kalimuddin Ahmed, Chandra Mohan Ganju, Subir Choudhury, Kamala Nath, Tolendra 
Lahon, Momin Bordoloi, Fakaruddin Laskar, etc who had the capacity to entertain 
the crowd with their individual skills and as a team they had tremendous 
fighting spirit. They always put up a spirited show against the big three of 
Calcutta. That was one of the reasons that people used to come to the Nehru 
Stadium to enjoy Bordoloi Trophy matches. He advised the youngsters to work 
hard and go for regular practice sincerely.

Terming Arun Borthakur as his most respected player, Sangma said the Oil India 
forward had all the qualities of a great player. He was not only a skillful 
player but also a perfect gentleman.

On the present Assam Police team he said the creation of the Assam Police Blues 
team was a blunder on the part of top officials. The newly created team in the 
city could not put any impact on the people of Assam and as soon as the base of 
the team was shifted to Guwahati all the past glamour was lost. 

Asked to name his dream team of the State, he pronounced the names of Mukul 
Sowar (goalkeeper), Subodh Choudhury, Subir Choudhury, Fazal Haq (defenders), 
Chandra Mohan Ganju, Dambaru Khanikar (midfielders), Amalendu Dey, Arun 
Borthakur, Reboti Phukan, Amal Phukan and himself.

Presently serving in the capacity of a deputy superintendent of police in 
Guwahati, Sangma still maintains a good physique with regular workouts and he 
looks as young as he was during his heydays.

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