Claudius laid to rest in presence of teammates, dignitaries

Kolkata: Olympians and dignitaries of the state government on Sunday bid their final adieus to legendary hockey player Leslie Claudius whose mortal remains were laid to rest at the Lower Circular Road Cemetery here.

Claudius` last journey began at 10.50am from the Peace Haven and the first stop was his club, Customs Tent where his former teammate Keshav Dutt of the 1948 and 1952 Olympic-winning team paid his last homage.

The procession then went through Veteran`s Club before reaching Rabindra Sadan where the body was kept for more than one hour for public veneration.

Olympians, Bir Bahadur Chhetri, Chuni Goswami, Samar Banerjee and Tulasi Balaram were among others who were present during the occasion even as Chief minister Mamata Banerjee was conspicuous by her absence.

But Mamata had sent a bouquet with a condolence message, while sports minister Madan Mitra, MP Derek O`Brien from the state government were present. Also seen were former sports minister Kanti Ganguly and former mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

The former players raised hockey sticks as a mark of respect to the mortal remains of Claudius was taken to St Paul`s Cathedral for a mass.

The mortal remains was then taken to the Lower Circular Cemetery to be buried near his son Robert, who died in a road accident after returning from representing India at the Mexico World Cup, 1978.

Triple Olympic gold medallist Claudius was laid to rest around 5pm in presence of his family members.

Meanwhile, the Bengal Hockey Association has appealed to the state government to put up a statue and name a road in the name of Claudius.

"BHA will also hold a tournament in the name of Leslie Claudius from the upcoming season," BHA secretary Gurbux Singh said.

London-based Gurdeb Singh, who was Claudius` teammate at the 1956 gold medal winning team in Melbourne Olympics, had sent a condolence message to BHA, Gurbux said.

The ninth International Anglo-Indian Reunion, which will be held here next month, will also confer Leslie Claudius with the `Anglo-Indian of the Year`.

"We wanted to bestow the honour on him at the meet for being such a great sportsman. Not only has he brought laurels to the country, he has also been an ambassador for the sport of hockey and the Anglo-Indian community. The award will now be handed over to his son Brandon," Philomena Eaton, convenor of the reunion as well as the Calcutta Anglo-Indian Service Society, said.

Remembering Claudius, former India goalkeeper Bir Bahadur Chhetri said, "I`ve lost an elder brother. Claudius Sir was so simple and easy to approach. He backed me before I was selected for the Indian team and he would guide me in so many ways after that."

"When we went to Delhi in July for the London Olympics-bound Indian team`s send-off function, he was in the room opposite mine and would come over for a chat.

"When he spoke it was never about other but about the game. Though he played the game long ago, he had a terrific knowledge of the modern game," the former Olympian said.

The former India right-half has a record three Olympic gold medals which was later matched by Udham Singh.

Claudius also captained India to a silver medal finish at the 1960 Rome Games before announcing his retirement from the game.

He died on December 20 at the age of 85 after a prolonged battle with cirrhosis of the liver.


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