Who was Cristiano Junior, Saviour of East Bengal in 2003?

Cristiano Sebastião de Lima Junior arrived in India in 2003, signing for East Bengal ahead of the new National Football League season. Junior had spells at Brasilia, Vasco Da Gama, and America before moving to India.

Cristiano Junior – Saviour of East Bengal

He had a telepathic understanding with Bhaichung Bhutia immediately as the duo ran riot, scoring 27 goals between them as they won the club the title. In his first season in India, Junior also won the top scorer award, finishing the season with 15 goals in 18 games. East Bengal coach Subhas Bhowmick at the end of the season stated that,

“My job was at stake. Junior proved to be my saviour.

He might be ordinary for 89 minutes and 30 seconds but in the remaining 30 seconds, he will get you a goal.

He was like a cheetah on the hunt. Junior could smell goals.”

Needless to say, he became a fan favourite immediately. When he wasn’t playing football or training, his love for animals meant that he was often spotted at the Alipore Zoo. 

But he struggled with his English and that was said to be the main reason he sought a move to Goa from East Bengal. They say the Portuguese influence and the churches really appealed to him. So, in 2004, Dempo unveiled their new Brazilian striker.

An Unfortunate Incident

He dominated at the Goan club. And also steered them to the final of the Federation Cup. Already scoring the opening goal against Mohun Bagan, in the 78th minute, Cristiano Junior ran forward and reached out with his right foot to score the second. While doing so, he collided with the Bagan keeper, i.e., Subrata Pal and fell to the ground. He would never get up again.

The Brazilian was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival. The cause of death was identified as a cardiac arrest. He was only 25.

Dempo went on to win their only Federation Cup but did not celebrate as a mark of respect and even announced that they would retire Junior’s #10 shirt. East Bengal have a portrait of him that says ‘Adios Junior’ at their stadium. We can only take solace in the fact that Cristiano Junior died doing something he loved and lived for: scoring goals.

We pray to rest his soul in peace.

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