The George Brothers, which includes Jimmy George, once played as a team. Did the George children continue the great volleyball tradition? 25 years after Jimmy’s death, the MetroPlus finds out
As he kept rising, towering over the net and still going higher, almost as if moving up on an invisible ladder, the rest of the court watched in awe. Jimmy George cast such a magical spell on court that even more than two decades after his death, people still talk about the volleyball great with awe.
Twenty-five years ago, exactly on this day, the country mourned the loss of this amazing star, the country’s greatest volleyballer after ‘Pappan’ T.D. Joseph. Jimmy was the first Indian to play professional volleyball in Europe and very successfully too.
A man who was hailed as the exponent of power volleyball, Jimmy could almost ‘hang’ for an extra second in thin air, survey the scene and decide where to place his telling smashes.
The George family truly had volleyball in its blood. Jimmy and his seven brothers – the eldest Jose, Mathew, Sebastian George, Francis Byju George, Stanley, Winston and the youngest Robert Bobby – even played as a team once!
Two of them – Jose and his immediate junior Jimmy – went on to represent the country, while two others, Mathew and Sebastian, wore the Kerala colours at the Senior Nationals. The rest were good spikers too.
“Our father studied law in Chennai and was a former Madras University player. Jose and Jimmy began in the 60s, we all followed,” said Sebastian, Jimmy’s younger brother.
Well, what about the children of the George Brothers…have they followed in their footsteps? Are they continuing the great tradition of Indian volleyball’s first family?
One was keen to know.
Surprisingly, there was a shock in store.
“Only Jimmy’s son, Joseph, played volleyball, and up to the sub-junior State level. He represented the Karnataka sub-junior team. My son, George Sebastian, played basketball and represented junior State and Kerala Schools,” said Sebastian. “All other children were in school or college-level teams but not in volleyball.”
So, what happened…were they all so emotionally upset when they lost their beloved brother and uncle in an accident at a young age (32) that they vowed never to go anywhere near a volleyball court?
Thankfully, that was not the case.
And in Joseph’s case, the schools he attended in Ernakulam and Bangalore, did not have volleyball teams and there was not much time to play the sport actively.
“We all studied in the village school and could spare some time for playing volleyball,” explained Sebastian, a former Kerala captain. “The situation is different in city schools.”
Jimmy’s son Joseph, by the way, is 24 now and working in a private firm in Bangalore after completing his engineering.
Sebastian was fortunate to play alongside Jimmy, in the Kerala State team, and against him too in State championships and in open tournaments.
He, along with Jose and Jimmy, played in the 1976 Kolkata National and again, along with Jimmy in the 1985 Kanpur National.
“And in the 1974 State championship in Palakkad, Jose and Jimmy played for Kottayam while Mathew and I played for Kannur. My father and mother were the chief guests for the match,” said Sebastian, walking down memory lane. “I was only 15-16, Jimmy was 19 then and in superb form after the Teheran Asian Games.
“I was only 5’9 but I had a very good jump, speed and power. It was difficult to get Jimmy in block, though I had a very good timing. In 1974-75, I was helpless against Jimmy. But I played well against him in 1984-85.”
Jimmy in full flow was truly an amazing sight. With an absolute jump of around 110 cms, Jimmy had a superb reach. Often, he appeared to be floating over the shoulders of his teammates.
“His reach was 12 feet, it was in-born talent, given by God, he did not do any special exercise to attain this sort of jump or reach,” said Sebastian.
Sebastian cherishes the last game he played against Jimmy. “It was a Kerala Police v Titanium match in an all-Kerala tournament at Haripad in May 1985. Titanium won after a thrilling five-setter and I was selected as the tournament’s best player,” he said. “I consider it as a rare honour as I won it playing against Jimmy. Am still keeping the bed I received as the best player award.”
So, what did the brothers discuss when they played against each other?
“Game strategy, we did not discuss,” said Sebastian, laughing.
The George Brothers match which was headline stuff those days also had a sad turn.
“We, eight brothers, played as a team on May 26, 1987 … only one match and unfortunately, that was the last match Jimmy played in India,” said Sebastian, under whose captaincy Jimmy also played his last national championship, in 1985.
Jimmy was a good swimmer too, he was the Calicut University champion twice, in 1971 and 1972 and won four golds but with volleyball taking much of his time, swimming was fast forgotten.
When will we see another Jimmy?