|Date of birth||1952 (age 66–67)|
|Place of birth||Bangalore, Mysore State, India|
|1970||Army Football Club, 515|
|1971–1974||Chief Inspectorate of Electronics|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Narayanswami Ulaganathan (born 1952) is an Indian former footballer. He played for Mohun Bagan in three spells, East Bengal, Mohammedan and the Indian national team primarily as a winger, during his 12-year career as a professional footballer.
Playing for Bagan in 1976, he became the first player to score a hat-trick in the Durand Cup final, which came against JCT Mills. Nicknamed "Black Pearl", Ulaganathan was renowned for his speed with the ball and footwork as a winger, and was considered one of India's best wingers during his time. He was notable in not having received a single yellow card throughout his career. He retired from professional football in 1985.
Childhood and early career
Ulaganathan was born in 1952 into a Tamilian family in Gautamapura, Austin Town, a locality in Bangalore, of the erstwhile Mysore State (now Karnataka). He played cricket, football, gilli-danda and marbles as a child. Growing up in Gautamapura, a locality that was named 'mini Brazil', as it was home to Arumoy Naigam, Kannan, both established footballers at the time, Ulaganathan was influenced by them, before taking to football seriously when he was 16.
His football career started in 1969 when he began playing for a local Bangalore club, Bangalore Mars. After a year with Mars, he moved to Army Base team, 515, an army team. Following this he played a striker for another army team, Chief Inspectorate of Electronics (CIL), for three seasons, till 1974. During the time, he also represented his home state, Mysore (now Karnataka), in the Santosh Trophy, from 1968 to 1973. As a senior professional, he got his first break in 1972, when he was called for the national selection camp in Calcutta (now Kolkata) for the Olympics qualifiers in Rangoon. Having been selected, he played at the tournament.
Sailen Manna, a former Mohun Bagan player was told of Ulaganathan's talent by Arumoy Naigam and Kannan, who tried to sign him for Bagan during the national selection camp in 1972. However, he was not released by his then club and employer CIL, for, the rules said, he had to apply for a transfer six months in advance. However, he signed for Bagan in 1974. He had an ordinary first season with Bagan finishing the season third behind rivals East Bengal and Aryan. Having had a difficult start at the club, he considered leaving the club at the time. This was until Durand Cup of the season came. Bagan beat Bengal in the semifinals, with Ulaganathan scoring a late winner through a header with three minutes left. The 1–0 win broke Bengal's losing streak of 1,932 days against them. Facing JCT Mills in the finals in Delhi, he scored a hat-trick in the team's win 3–2, with Bagan winning the Cup after ten years. In the process, he became the first player to score a hat-trick in a Durand Cup final. The following season proved to be ordinary for both Ulaganathan and the team, failing to win a single trophy and also losing to Bengal 5–0 in the IFA Shield final.
In his next season, on 24 July 1976, in the game against Bengal, Ulaganathan assisted Mohammad Akbar in scoring a goal in 14 seconds from start. Receiving the delivery from defender Prasun, he beat Bengal defender Sudhir Karmakar, to pass the ball to Akbar who scored what was one of the fastest league goals, and the fastest Calcutta derby goal. He finished the season winning a unique treble with the team; the IFA League, IFA Shield and the Rovers Cup, and also the Bordoloi Trophy, with Pradip Kumar Banerjee as the coach.
With Bagan signing Bengal forward Shyam Thapa, Ulaganathan made a move to Bengal having received a good offer, in 1976. In his first season with Bengal, he helped the team the IFA League. In the 1977 season, he finished with 9 goals, the highest in his career in a season. In the 1978–79 season, he won his second Durand Cup title and also helped the team win its first Federation Cup, after the team played out a draw with Bagan 0–0, hence being declared joint winners.
Return to Mohun Bagan and later career
Ulaganathan returned to his former club Mohun Bagan in 1979. He had Xavier Pius as his strike partner, both of who would go on to win many trophies together, during their time at Bagan. During his second spell at Bagan, Ulaganathan won the IFA League in 1979 and 1983, Durand Cups in 1979, 1980 and 1982, and IFA Shield Cups in 1979, 1981 and 1982 along with two Federation Cup titles.
In 1983, following four seasons with Bagan, Ulaganathan signed for another Calcutta club, Mohammedan Sporting. Once there, he helped his team win the Federation Cup, his fourth. Sporting beat Mohun Bagan 2–0 in the final, with both goals scored by Jamshed Nasiri, with assists from Ulaganathan. After a season with Sporting, he returned to his former club, Mohun Bagan, in 1984. Having played one season with bagan, he retired in 1985.
Ulaganathan made his first appearance for the Indian national team at the Olympic qualifiers in Rangoon. He was then called up for the 1973 Merdeka Cup, when he scored his first goal for India, in a match against Cambodia, a match that India won 3–0. In the quarterfinal against Malaysia, he injured his shinbone following a collision with a player that made him to sit out of the team for six months. He was member of the squad that took part at the 1974 Asian Games in Tehran and the 1977 goodwill tour of Zambia.
Ulaganathan married Arati Palit, the cousin of his then teammate Dilip Palit, in 1979. They have a son, Abhishek, who played football like his father, but did not take it professionally. He has been employed with Bengal Chemicals since 1979, and currently in its Bangalore office, in the marketing department. He resides in Fraser Town, a locality in Bangalore, with his family in his house named "Soccer Ville".
- Sengupta, Somnath (5 November 2013). "Legends Of Indian Football : Narayanswami Ulaganathan". thehardtackle.com. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- Nair, Avinash (23 February 2011). "They used to call out Ulaga… Ulaga!". The Hindu. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- Naidu, Snehalatha (16 May 2011). "Our very own Pele". bangalore.citizenmatters.in. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- "I am grateful to Mohun Bagan and Manna da: Ulganathan". Mohun Bagan. mohunbaganac.com. 17 August 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2014. Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
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