Even Pope took time out for Leslie

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Kolkata
  • |
  • Updated: Dec 21, 2012 00:13 IST

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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