Lesser-Recognized Story of How India’s Biggest Volleyball Participant Turned a Favorite in Italy

What number of of you will have heard of Jimmy George, the best volleyball participant India has ever produced? Until you’re from Kerala, one would reckon not many. His sister-in-law and legendary lengthy jumper Anju Bobby George is probably a extra common determine in Indian sports activities. 

Throughout Indian volleyball’s golden interval within the Seventies and ‘80s, it was this 6’ 2” human spring from Peravoor, a small city in Kerala’s Kannur district, who led the cost in opposition to a number of the world’s greatest groups. 

Ranked amongst the ten greatest attackers (spikers) on the planet in the course of the mid Eighties, George took his skills to the skilled leagues within the Center East and Italy. Even at present, Italy is residence to among the best skilled volleyball leagues on the planet.  

Kerala’s very personal

Born on 8 March 1955 in Peravoor, Jimmy George was the second amongst eight sons born to Joseph and Mary George. He grew up in a family the place ardour for volleyball was robust, since Joseph was a gifted university-level participant in his youth. In truth, 4 of the eight George brothers would go on to signify Kerala on the nationals.    

However Jimmy George was greater than a pure athlete and excelled in lots of sports activities, together with swimming and chess. With a pointy thoughts for lecturers, he bought admission right into a Authorities Medical Faculty in Thiruvananthapuram. However volleyball was all the time his old flame.     

Barely 18, he was captain of the Kerala College group, and would go on to make them 4 successive All India Inter-College Championship titles between 1973 and 1976. Throughout this era, he additionally broke by means of into the Indian arrange and was chosen for the 1974 Asian Video games in Tehran. India didn’t get previous the group phases, however George’s expertise at 19 was plain.     

In 1976, he ultimately dropped out of medical school to focus on his burgeoning volleyball profession and located employment with the Kerala Police. 

A ‘fan favorite’

It was an encounter with Russian coach Sergei Ivanovic Gavrilov that satisfied Jimmy George to develop into an expert participant. 

In 1976, Gavrilov held a one-week coaching camp in Thiruvananthapuram, which George attended. Impressed by his expertise, Gavrilove suggested him to show skilled and three years later, he was signed by the Abu Dhabi Sports activities Membership.   

This made George the primary Indian volleyball participant to show skilled. Throughout his three-year stint within the Center East, he was adjudged the perfect participant within the area. In 1982, he was signed by the Italian membership Pallavolo Treviso, thus changing into the primary Indian volleyball participant to ply his commerce in a European league. The stint in Italy gave George the chance to play alongside and in opposition to a number of the greatest volleyball gamers from all over the world. Within the almost six seasons he performed in Italy, he turned a fan favorite for the completely different golf equipment he represented.

Apart from the excessive stage of competitors, he additionally bought the chance to experiment with completely different enjoying types, an expertise he sadly couldn’t impart to his teammates in India.  

Jimmy George, Indian volleyball star
Jimmy George: A ‘human spring’

What made him world class?

Chatting with The Indian Specific in 2009, his ex-teammate Ramana Rao, stated, “He had what known as absolutely the leap — greater than a metre above the bottom — which within the 70s and 80s was very uncommon in India…Volleyball is all about defying gravity, however Jimmy’s was essentially the most trendy leap as a result of he managed a bit of air-rest the place he may cease in flight for a fraction of a second.” 

Going additional, the spiker/attacker introduced the leap service to Indian volleyball, which is at present customary follow on the planet sport, and a common stage of professionalism. 

“Apart from his leap, what was additionally a number of notches above every other Indian was his super psychological energy,” recalled nationwide coach GE Sridharan, who adopted George to Europe and performed setter [a position on court] on his Italian membership groups, to The Indian Specific in 2009. 

“Jimmy was into meditation effectively earlier than it got here into Indian sport. When he got here to the courtroom after his quiet thought, we may simply watch the saved vitality explode. The entire thoughts and physique got here as one when he jumped into the everyday physique arc,” he added. 

When the Seoul Asian Video games got here round in 1986, George was among the many 10 greatest spikers/attackers on the planet. Within the event, he performed his coronary heart out. 

On the morning of the bronze medal match in opposition to defending champions Japan, he reportedly informed his teammates about “20 occasions” that India would win. “He began attacking from the primary or second level, and saved asking for the ball. That day he blasted the ball like something and even scored off some fallacious passes,” recalled Sridharan. 

Apart from Sridharan, one other participant on that bronze medal profitable group was PV Ramana, who’s badminton star PV Sindhu’s father.

Jimmy George, Indian volleyball star played in Italy

‘Of common brotherhood’

George’s life and profession had been minimize brief 35 years in the past on 30 November 1987 following a street accident in Italy, the place he was enjoying within the high division of their home league. 

His dying at age 32 additionally marked the tip of Indian volleyball’s golden period. In his lifetime, he displayed exceptional expertise and represented Kerala at simply 16, gained the Arjuna Award at 22 and led India to a bronze medal end within the ‘86 Seoul Asian Video games.        

His dying got here as a impolite shock to his household, mates and his followers in each Kerala and Italy. When his physique was introduced residence, 1000’s got here out to pay their respects. 

He was a hero to many in his residence state. In truth, his final recorded match on Indian soil, which was organised in Peravoor, noticed him group up along with his brothers to play a match in opposition to a Kerala choose six aspect in honour of their father, Joseph. The George brothers gained that match.  

His legacy lives on in Kerala even at present with the Jimmy George Sports activities Hub, previously often called the Jimmy George Indoor Stadium. Over time, a number of volleyball tournaments within the state have been named after him as effectively. However his legacy not solely lives on in Kerala, but additionally Italy. 

In 1993, an indoor stadium was named after him within the city of Montichiari in Brescia province referred to as PalaGeorge. 

In the course of the inauguration of the indoor stadium, the then-mayor of the city wrote a heartfelt letter that captured his legacy, “Jimmy George has left his excessive human values and morals not solely on the planet of sports activities but additionally in our entire neighborhood, particularly among the many youth. The dedication of this prestigious stadium to his identify ought to convey a significant message of religion within the common brotherhood,” the letter learn. 

“Subsequently, on this event, I wish to categorical by means of the excessive officers to whom that is addressed, our feeling of appraisal and gratitude to the noble Indian individuals who have provided us, within the determine of Jimmy George, a shining and strong instance of excessive common values. The circumstances could assist to construct up extra friendship between the 2 nations and generally is a image of affection and peace for all of the folks,” it learn. 

In truth, a road close to the Coletto Membership, one of many Italian groups he performed for, near the most important metropolitan of Milan, was additionally rechristened after Jimmy George.

It’s actually some of the exceptional tales within the historical past of Indian sports activities. 

(Edited by Divya Sethu)


‘Remembering Jimmy, who soared increased than anybody earlier than or since’ by Shivani Naik; Revealed on 26 July 2009 courtesy The Indian Specific
‘The story of Jimmy George, one in all India’s best volleyball gamers’ by Adnan Bhat; Revealed on 8 January 2018 courtesy Pink Bull
‘Jimmy George – Indian volleyball maverick who charmed his approach from Kerala to Milan’ by Uthaya Nag; Revealed on 22 November 2022 courtesy Olympic Video games
‘Jimmy George: The genius that towered over the remainder’ by Virendra Karunakar; Revealed on 15 October 2013 courtesy Sportskeeda
Pictures courtesy Fb/Twitter

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