Jimmy was a fan favourite in Italy
© Sebastian George

The story of Jimmy George, one of India’s greatest volleyball players

Jimmy George was just 21 years old when he received the Arjuna Award for his talent on the volleyball court. Here’s the story of the legend and his family that was obsessed with volleyball.
Written by Adnan Bhat
3 min readPublished on

6 min

The life of Jimmy George

This film explores the life and career of Jimmy George, a volleyball player from Kerala who was arguably the best volleyball player India ever produced.

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Jimmy George is not a household name for most Indians. But tales of his exploits on the volleyball court stretch from Peravoor in Kerala, where he was born, all the way to Montichiari in Italy, where the city mayor opened an indoor stadium in his memory in 1994.

Here are some of the highlights of Jimmy George's career, told through the memories of his brother Sebastian:

"I was 16 and Jimmy was 19. We were playing against each other in the 1974 state championship in Palakkad. I had a good block on me and my timing was good as well. But it was almost impossible to stop Jimmy," recalls Sebastian George, Jimmy's younger brother.
Jimmy started pretty early and his talent was quickly recognized. At the age of 16, Jimmy represented Kerala’s senior state team. Three years later, he went on to represent India in the 1974 Tehran Asian Games. But it was only after Jimmy met Russian coach Sergei Ivanovich Gavrilov that he decided to become a full-time professional player.
"In 1976, he joined Kerala police. Mother was not happy with his decision. In 1976, Russian coach Sergei Ivanovich Gavrilov had a one-week training camp at Trivandrum. Jimmy went to attend the camp. It was Gavrilov who advised him to become a professional. In 1979, Jimmy joined Abu Dhabi Sports Club and became a professional. He got a chance to play for an Italian club in 1982," Sebastian recalls fondly.
Jimmy with Coletto team in Treviso, Italy (circa 1982-83)
Jimmy with Coletto team in Treviso, Italy (circa 1982-83)
The Italian team that came calling for Jimmy was Pallavolo Treviso. He later also played for Pallavolo Gabeca, the club that would use the court posthumously dedicated to Jimmy to play their home matches.
Jimmy with System Impianti teammates in Treviso, Italy (circa 1983-84)
Jimmy with System Impianti teammates in Treviso, Italy (circa 1983-84)
Jimmy wasn't the only player in the George family to play volleyball. His father George Joseph played volleyball in his college days, and then encouraged the eight George brothers to play. Jimmy's seven brothers — Jose, Mathew, Sebastian, Francis Byju, Stanley, Winston, and Robert Bobby — all played volleyball at some stage in their life. 
"We brothers were ball pickers in the beginning. Later we got a chance to play in the backcourt. Gradually we got an opportunity to serve too," says Sebastian, who captained the Kerala state team in 1985.
"It was the dream of our father to field a team of all the eight brothers. But the opportunity came only in 1987. We brothers could play as a team for only one match, and the historic match was played at Peravoor in ‘87 (George Brothers vs Selected Sixes). Unfortunately, that became the last line up of Jimmy in India with his brothers," added Sebastian.
While Jimmy is no longer around, his family has worked to keep his legacy alive through the Jimmy George Foundation that was set up in 1988.
"Almost all of Jimmy’s jerseys, awards, medals, certificates, diaries, and letters from friends and fans are kept at Peravoor. I was the closest to him. I looked up to him. He was a role model for me growing up," says Sebastian.