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Even Pope took time out for Leslie
HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Kolkata, December 21, 2012
First Published: 00:11 IST(21/12/2012)
Last Updated: 00:13 IST(21/12/2012)

In his pomp, Leslie Claudius was among those who took Indian hockey to stratospheric heights. On Thursday evening, he ran out of breath. He was 85.

To generations weaned on under-whelming performances in the Olympics, the life and times of Claudius would seem like a dream.

One where leave without pay was a done thing if you wanted to play for India. Claudius made the India right-half position his own and, for him, even Dhyan Chand had a lot of time.

During the 1960 Rome Olympics, Claudius, a devout Roman Catholic, was among select international athletes the Pope met.

And so fond of him was Joe Galibardy, a 1936 Olympic hockey gold medallist, that he kept inquiring about Claudius in 2007.

These and more feature in a 30-minute documentary. It was inspired by Claudius's colleagues at Calcutta Customs --- even 25 years after retirement he was regular at their club for a round of cards --- and funded by the Films Division of India.

Had former Olympian Dickie Carr not handed him a stick because they were a player short in 1945, Claudius would, perhaps, have stayed with football, a sport he loved playing in Bilaspur, where he was born.

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