One name that is synonymous with football in Tiruvalla is that of Thomas Varghese better known as Tiruvalla Pappan.
The legendary footballer who represented India in the 1948 London Olympics, is a personal pride for the people here.
Pappan was one of the best defenders in India during the 1940s and 50s. The young Pappan was considered a talent on a par with the legendary Sailen Manna and was picked for the Indian team that participated in the 1948 Olympics.
India faced France and went down to an 89th minute goal, after missing two penalties in that match; but they made an impression on the 17,000 people who watched the game at the Cricketfield Stadium in London. India, which toured various cities during that period, put up a superb show, even beating Ajax Amsterdam in a friendly match. O Chandrasekhar, who represented India in the Rome Olympics 12 years after Pappan, has fond memories of the resolute stopper back. “Pappan was a crude and hard defender. He was effective for his team in a way that he would do anything to stop the opposing team from scoring,” he said.
Chandrasekhar would hear of Tiruvalla Pappan’s heroics during the early days of his career. And later on, Pappan would entertain him whenever Chandrasekhar made it to the then Bombay.
“The first thing I did whenever I went there was to visit him. He was also a very good human being,” Chandrasekhar reminisces.
Tiruvalla Pappan was a star player for Tata football team, and he was its captain until 1952, when Chandrasekhar arrived in Bombay to play for the Caltex team in the late 40s. “On one occasion, he came to our dressing room to chat with me and advised me on my game,” Chandrasekhar said.
But there are fears that the legacy of Triuvalla Pappan will fade away with the older generation of Tiruvalla. His family has relocated abroad and no memorials of any kind have been erected in his honour. “We had moved a proposal for a memorial near the Municipal Public Stadium a couple of years back. We are waiting for a green signal from the Tiruvalla Municipality,” Ranji K Jacob, secretary of Pathanamthitta district football association, said. Meanwhile, former Tiruvalla Municipal chairman Koshy Thomas said that the municipality was keen to do something to honour Pappan.
“There is no laxity from the side of the municipality. There is a proposal to begin a tournament in his name, but a concerted effort from everyone is needed, including the football association,” he said.