Peter Thangaraj, the towering custodian of the Indian team which won the gold medal in the 1962 Jakarta Asian Games, passed away following a massive heart attack at Bokaro on Monday night, family sources said.
Thangaraj, who was 72, fell ill in the morning and was admitted to Bokaro General Hospital. The end came at around 2330 IST, the sources added.
He is survived by his wife, son and three daughters.
Voted Asia's finest goalkeeper in 1958, Thangaraj was a contemporary of India's soccer greats Chuni Goswami, P K Banerjee and T Balaram. He played for the country between 1954 and 1968 and represented India in four Asiads -- 1954, 1958, 1962 and 1966.
The over six feet tall custodian was greatly influenced by Russian great Lev Yashin and picked his style of throw, which delighted the crowds.
Thangaraj, who was conferred the Arjuna award in 1968, was a member of the Asian All-Star team twice in the 1960s, and also represented the Indian team which played in the 1956 Melbourne and 1960 Rome Olympics.
Born in 1936 in Andhra Pradesh, Thangaraj initially played as a centre forward for the Madras Regimental Centre, but took to goalkeeping subsequently with great success.
He played for Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting through the 1960s, becoming the heart-throb of the soccer-mad crowd of the city.
He was under the East Bengal bar when the city giants pipped Iran's PAS Club 1-0 in the final of the IFA Shield in 1970 to register a historic win.
Thangaraj was present in Kolkata when and other members of the East Bengal team were felicitated by the club for the feat on September 25 last year.
He also played for the Services, but represented Bengal in the Santosh Trophy when the team continuously won the title from 1961 and 1964.
After calling it a day from the maidan, Thangaraj worked as coach of Aligarh Muslim University for some time and also Vasco S C in the early 1970s.
He subsequently joined Bokaro Steel Plant as sports officer.
He was appointed advisor to the Football Academy set up by the Bokaro Steel Plant.