3/15/2018 6:51:23 PM (GMT+3)

For any juniors of our time, Calcutta League was a big dream: Bhaskar

For any juniors of our time, Calcutta League was a big dream: Bhaskar

CALCUTTA, India: During the two-hour midnight flight to Calcutta from Hyderabad, I wanted to unravel the truth — is football madness just a myth for the Bengalis?

Two top clubs Mohun Bagan and East Bengal finished third and fourth respectively in the I-League this season, and wondered if the sun has already set on Bengal football.

Flipping through the pages of Ananda Bazar Patrika, Bengal’s and India’s largest circulated regional daily, I was convinced that T20 cricket had knocked off their sera khela (favourite sport).  

The next day, I had an appointment with Bhakar Ganguly, one of India’s finest goalkeepers in 80s.

I hoped into a waiting taxi at the Phoolbagan crossing on a sun-soaked afternoon to reach State Bank of India office at Ultadanga.

I first saw him in 1981 when he guarded the Mohammedan Sporting citadel against Aryans in a Calcutta Super Division League match at the Mohun Bagan ground.

Bhaskarda upore achen. Jan peye jaben (Bhaskarda is upstairs. You’ll get him there,” said the security at the entrance.

It was my first meeting with Bhaskarda, a potbellied and retired bank employee.

“As a junior, my dream was to play in the Calcutta League, but it has lost its charm. What are they doing with local football, I don’t have any clue. It’s pointless even to discuss on it,” said Ganguly, who was only the second Bengali to lead the national team at the Asian Games in 1982 after Sailen Manna in 1948.

Barring that 0-5 thrashing by East Bengal, when a young Ganguly guarded the Bagan citadel in that 1975 IFA Shield final, he became an epitome of confidence in a career which ended in 1991-92.

His remark on the sport, as the Bengalis say thot-kata kotha, ‘football doesn’t excite me anymore’ wasn’t a surprising one given the fact that he had moved away from the limelight.

“During our times, the districts used to produce players. There were inter-district tournaments. For the players, the bigger dream was to take a train to Calcutta. All these things have stopped. The passion is no more,” added Ganguly.

The 60-year-old also admitted that after his retirement, he never fitted into the scheme of things and neither chased for any awards.

“Why should I? I think I’ve better things to do than run after officials,” he said.