Muscat: Hockey veteran Saiyed Ali Sibtain Naqvi has paid tribute to triple Olympic gold medal winner Leslie Walter Claudius who passed away on Thursday after a prolonged battle with cirrhosis of liver.
"The news of his death came as a shock to me. Leslie's death leaves a huge void that is hard to fill," Naqvi said.
It may be recalled that the Bhojpuri Wing of Indian Social Club had invited Claudius to be the chief guest of the Dhyan Chand Day Celebrations in 2011. "When he came here, he paid a visit to my residence and I still cherish those wonderful memories of that visit," said an emotional Naqvi.
Claudius was hospitalised four times over the past 11 months as he battled with the liver ailment. He was a member of the three-time Olympic gold medal-winning Indian team - London (1948), Helsinki (1952) and Melbourne (1956). At Rome (1960), he led India to a silver medal finish.
He represented the country during the golden age of Indian hockey, and etched his name in the Guinness Book of World Records alongside compatriot Udham Singh for being part of the hockey team to win the maximum number of medals at the Olympic Games.
"When I spoke to him last, he was quite upset about the current scenario of Indian hockey.
Players like him are born just once. He was a true legend of hockey. We will surely miss him," added Naqvi. Born on March 25, 1927 in Bilaspur, Claudius switched from football to hockey as a right half during the 1946 Beighton Cup hockey tournament as a "forced last-minute" replacement. He later shifted to the right half position on his own.
He retired from international hockey after the 1960 Olympics but continued to compete in domestic games till the 1965 season.
In 1971, Claudius became the sixth Indian hockey player to be given the prestigious Padmashree award by the government and also served as the team manager for the 1974 and 1978 Asian Games. He was also a national selector for a few years.