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Grand old man of Kerala sports



I. D. Paul with K. J. Jesudas

A COUPLE of decades ago, Thursdays often used to be tense days for sports officials in Kerala. For a hard-hitting little column in the Indian Express made them wince in embarrassment.

"Will it be our turn to face the music? Sports officials used to worry every week," said Joseph Paul, a prominent Kerala Hockey Association official, a few years ago.

`Off the cuff,' the crisp column, was a sports administrators' nightmare and areaders' delight.

At a time when newspapers in Kerala reported local sport in single columns, the little piece brought out the `inside stuff.'

Sports journalism in Kerala became a big hit in the State after that.

I. D. Paul, the man who penned the column, passed away in Kochi on Monday. He was 77.

Almost every morning, one could spot the scraggy little man, in his loose shirt and with a beedi between his lips, watching little ones play at the lovely Parade Ground in Fort Kochi.

More than anything, that lively sight gave him the greatest joy.

Paul was a sharp anayst. Often, during badminton and tennis tournaments, when things go wrong for a player, he used to advise the confused youngster about his strategy and technique and where he let the match slip. And his match reports, though brief, were packed with details.

He loved sport and helped small clubs in his own small way. He helped a group of young men start a wrestling club in Fort Kochi and named it `Grapplers.'

And he was one of the first men to spot the promise in P. T. Usha.

A good footballer, basketballer and a badminton player in his heyday, Paul could even make players half his age run around the court with his shrewd play at the Fort Kochi, YMCA.

A good singer, Mohammed Rafi and Pankaj Udhas were his favourites, and after refilling his glass a couple of times, he was a big treat at parties with his old hits.

"He used to love those Mohammed Rafi nights in Fort Kochi," remembers his wife Jessy. And K. J. Jesudas was a close friend.

The grand old man of Kerala sports has now ridden into the sunset.

S.R

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