Anthony Jessuraj was truly an asset to the Railways

Anthony Jessuraj’s football prowess was acknowledged by two of the sport’s titans, both double Olympians.

“You will do well in Calcutta,” said Peter Thangaraj of the Indian Railways left-back’s calibre and its suitability for the Mecca of national football. Just to stress it was not merely flattery, Asia’s best goal-keeper offered Jessuraj a package at Bokaro Steel Plant that quadrupled what the youngster was earning then.

Another compliment came from P.K. Banerjee. “I remember your pile-driver during the Trichur Nationals,” said the country’s most renowned soccer celebrity, a full decade after Jessuraj unleashed the left-footed goal-scoring 40-yarder alluded to. “Such an accolade from soccer’s elder statesman, who had played and watched so many games the world over, I cannot forget,” says Jessuraj.

Not surprisingly, the Secunderabad lad was a serious contender for a place in the Indian squad for the 1982 Delhi Asiad. For behind him lay an impressive body of achievement.

His switch to soccer from body-building was at the urging of Sana Anthony, better known as Tony in football circles. His mentor had rightly spotted potential, for Jessuraj leapt from Secunderabad Blues Club’s ‘C’ squad to it’s ‘A’ team in just one year.

Playing against South Central Railway (SCR) in 1975, a fractured leg grounded him for a year, as many discouraged him from resuming playing. Not only did he bounce back, but SCR recruited him in the sports quota.

Jessuraj represented SCR continuously from 1976 to 1989, the side hard to beat, thanks to good players such as Vivekananda, Jaikumar, Md. Moosa, Khaizer Ali, M.E. Bhaskar and Pratap Seelan.

Jessuraj’s gaze turned to coaching and he duly obtained a diploma in football coaching from the National Institute of Sports (NIS) at Bangalore. Under the tutelage of great SCR gurus such as Olympian Kannan and Ramaswamy (Thangaraj’s brother), Jessuraj as captain led SCR to triumph in the 1989 all India Railways championships at Secunderabad.

As coach, he guided his boys to the title at Kharagpur in 1995, besides shaping the careers of Safik, Prakash, Veerabhadra and Nagaraj. “I am setting up an academy that will hopefully produce national and international players,” says Jessuraj of his last remaining ambition