Fortunato Franco, a former India international footballer, died on May 10 in Goa at the age of 84. He will be remembered as an icon in Indian football, and a man who was a big part of soccer growth in an otherwise non-footballing nation.
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That aside, it is time to mourn a great. Messages of condolences have been pouring out for the departed Fortunato Franco.
The Goan footballer was also a key member of the Indian football team that won gold at the Asian Games in Jakarta in 1962. He produced the assist for Jarnail Singh’s goal in the final match against South Korea in Jakarta.
Fortunato Franco was also a member of the Indian Olympic team that competed in Rome in 1960. Unfortunately, he did not feature in any game.
Franco was also part of the Indian football team that finished second in the 1962 Asian Cup, which was India’s best finish in the competition to that point, and second in the 1964 Merdeka Cup in Kuala Lumpur.
Franco was born in 1937 in Colvale, Goa, and moved to Mumbai with his family when he was six years old. In the Santosh Trophy, he represented Maharashtra and captained the state team, as well as playing for Western Railways and Tata Sports Club in Mumbai. He also played for Salgaocar SC, a Goan football club. In 1960, at the Rome Olympics, the midfielder made his international debut.
He turned out for Maharashtra in the Santosh Trophy for eight years, from 1959 to 1966, and captained the team for eight years, helping them win the title in 1964.
Franco’s football career was cut short in 1966 due to a knee injury. Prior to that, he had made more than 50 appearances for the Indian national team.
Following his retirement from football, Franco worked as a senior manager in public relations for the Tata Group. After retiring from the military in 1999, he returned to Goa.
The death of Fortunato Franco is without a doubt a huge loss for the Indian football community.
Condoling with the family on learning about the former India international’s death, the president of All India Football Federation (AIFF) Praful Patel said, “It is devastating to hear that Mr. Fortunato Franco is no more. He was a member of the Indian Football’s golden generation who played a stellar role in India helping India win the Gold Medal in 1962 Asian Games. His contribution to Indian Football can never be forgotten. I share the grief.”
On his part, AIFF General Secretary, Kushal Das said: “Mr. Fortunato Franco will be alive in his achievements. He played a massive role in India winning the Gold Medal in the 1962 Asian Games. He was a legendary footballer who has been an inspiration to so many generations. My condolences to his family. We pray for his soul to rest in peace.”