Mumbai: One of the country’s all-time great hockey players and the oldest Olympian, Leo Pinto, breathed his last here today at the age of 96.
“He died of old age. At his peak he was considered as the best goalkeeper in the world. He was a gentleman. I and others in the Mumbai Hockey Association offer our condolences to his family,” said MHA secretary and Olympian Gurbux Singh.
Born on April 11, 1914 at Nairobi in Kenya, Pinto donned the role of a goalkeeper with distinction and was a member of the fabulous gold medal-winning 1948 London Olympics team.
Twelve years earlier Pinto was all set to don the mantle of undivided India’s goalie at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but a serious concussion of the brain during the trials put paid to his hopes.
An all-round sportsman, Pinto - who moved to Mumbai at the age of eight from Nairobi - played hockey, football (winger) and cricket (wicket keeper) for his school – St Stanisalus.
Pinto, who took up the sport as a goalkeeper at the age of 13, played for Byculla Rovers, the then famous Lusitanians and the star-studded Tata SC in the blue riband Aga Khan tournament for 27 years in a row.
He was a member of the 1947 Indian team that went on a goodwill tour of Kenya under the captaincy of hockey wizard Dhyan Chand.
After his playing days Pinto became a coach and then a member of the national selection panel that picked the bronze winning team at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.