The Indian volleyball team went through a golden period in the 70s and 80s, so that it was an Indian who was once voted the best player in Europe – Jimmy George.
Jimmy’s life was often called the greatest volleyball player to ever come out of India, but Jimmy’s life was cut short when a truck rammed into his car in Italy, where he had entered the top division of their national league in 1987. Indian volleyball lost its prized jewel in one fell swoop, ending the golden age of the sport in the country as well.
Jimmy represented his Kerala state team at age 16 and led them at age 19. At the age of 22 he had already received the Arjuna Award.
Jimmy was a natural on the field, with world class skills and great jumping skills. Due to his extraordinary volleyball skills and charming personality off the court, Jimmy has become an ideal for many players. In Kerala, one of the hot spots for the sport, he is still worshiped as a God.
Jimmy was always looking for opportunities to improve his game. After playing for India in two Asian Games (Tehran, 1974 and Bangkok, 1978), Jimmy left the country to play for Abu Dhabi Sports Club. After playing in the UAE for three years, Jimmy was offered an offer to play for the Italian team Pallavolo Treviso in 1982. With this, Jimmy became the first Indian volleyball player to play in a European competition.
The crown on Jimmy’s Indian team came in 1986 at the Seoul Asian Games, where the team won a bronze medal. Some of the others on this ‘dream team’ were Cyril Valloor, Abdul Basith, Dalel Singh Ror, Sukhpal Singh, GE Sridharan, K Udayakumar and PV Ramana (PV Sindhu’s father).
During his time in Italy, Jimmy played with some of the best players in the world. He experimented with different styles of play during his time here, but unfortunately was able to pass on very little of his experience to his teammates back home.
Jimmy’s last game in India was his father’s dream, where all eight George brothers – including current track and field coach Robert Bobby George – played in one team against a select team from Kerala in 1987. The match, which was played in their hometown of Peravoor, ended in favor of the George brothers.
A tragic death that is commemorated daily
Indian volleyball received some brutal news on November 30, 1987 when Jimmy was killed in a road accident in Italy. He had gone there to play for Eurosibo Eurostyle, a first division club in the Italian professional league.
One of Jimmy’s teammates at the Italian club, Angelino Frigoni, was driving the car when the accident happened.
Speaking to News9 a few years ago, Frigoni said: “Jimmy was not only an incredible player, but also a remarkably good person… Our car was hit by a truck and Jimmy died instantly. Three of us were seriously injured. Each of us remembers remember that day and no day is complete without Jimmy.”
Jimmy had made a huge impact during his playing days in Italy and he was honored by the then mayor of Montichiari who inaugurated an indoor stadium in Jimmy’s name and also wrote a letter that perfectly describes the player and person Jimmy was.
In the letter, the mayor wrote: “Jimmy George has left his high human values and morals not only in the sports world, but also in our entire community, especially among the youth. The dedication of this prestigious stadium to his name should send a meaningful message from belief in the universal brotherhood.
“Therefore, through the senior officials to whom this is addressed, I would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation and gratitude to the noble Indian people who, in the form of Jimmy George, have set us a shining and solid example of high universal values.”