Bengaluru, November 7: S Thomas, the coach of the ITI team which won the first edition of the Federation Cup in 1977, passed away in the city early Tuesday (November 7) after a cardiac failure. He was 77.
Thomas, a former India international, represented East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting in his hey days. As a player, he won the Durand Cup and IFA Shield in 1965 with East Bengal. With Md Sporting, he bagged the Stafford Challenge Cup in 1968. He was a midfielder.
Turning coach in 1973, he built a strong ITI side which was unbeaten in the Bangalore District Football Association's A Division for five years.
His biggest achievement though came in the year 1977. As outsiders in the first-ever Federation Cup held in Cochin (Kochi now), ITI defeated Mohun Bagan 1-0 to pocket the trophy on May 7, 1977.
Lionel, a midfielder of that ITI team, remembers Thomas as a disciplined coach. "I remember him as someone who was very strict with the players," he said. "He brought in fresh faces for that season and trained them for an extra hour in the ground in peak summer. We had our core team in Immanuel, P Kumar, Rajashekhar, Sadatullah Khan and goalkeeper Sundaresan. Outside the ground, he was the friendliest person and used to be with the group always. He knew what he was doing because of the experience he had."
In the tournament, ITI began their campaign against Mafatlal Mills team of erstwhile Bombay. They then registered a win over JCT Mills (Punjab) to progress to the semi-finals. In the two-legged semis, they triumphed over Md Sporting and then set up a final against Bagan. Rajashekhar scored the winner for ITI against Bagan.
"I remember, when we were returning to Bangalore after the Fed Cup win, we were felicitated at the Cantonment Railway Station," Lionel added. "The ITI directors had called reporters and got our photos published in the newspapers the next day. Unfortunately, some of the players got down at Bangalore East Station as their homes were closer to that point."
After his stint as the ITI coach, Thomas chose to mentor kids. He became the junior team coach in ITI and then went on to helm schools like Frank Antony Public School, Bethany High School and International School Bangalore.
Thomas' wife passed away a month ago. He is survived by a daughter, Priya. The Karnataka State Football Association mourned his passing.