5/11/2018 8:46:26 PM (GMT+3)

'My bonding with Bidesh is all about love and respect'

CALCUTTA, India: Former India international Manas Bhattacharya was a household name when Calcutta Football League was the be-all and end-all for the Bengalis, whose visit to the Maidan was a part of their culture.

But Bhattacharya’s popularity wouldn’t have reached sky-high without best friend and left-winger Bidesh Bose as they became one of the most sought players due to their chemistry on the field.

Llike any successful duet singers, the ‘Manas-Bidesh’ pair was the talk of the town and had guided Mohun Bagan, Mohammedan Sporting and Bengal win multiple trophies. 

In fact, Mohammedan gained a lot as they could their last Calcutta League till date in 1981, with Bhattacharya scoring the only goal against Rajasthan in the match which decided the title in Mohammedan’s favour.

After their retirement, they have forged their excellent understanding by launching a football manufacturing unit, with their brand ‘joyee’ (winner) signifying the fight and win against poverty through football. 

Bhattacharya shared his football journey with www.khelupdates.com in an exclusive interview. Excerpts.

KU: Tell us about your childhood days.
My football journey started without any football kit. I used to play with a small rubber ball, but that helped me improve ball-control skills. When I was in fourth standard our school (Batanagar HS) was given a grand reception following their return from Delhi, where they had won the Subroto Cup in 1963. Honestly, those scenes of joy motivated me to become a footballer. And later, our school started a training programme under our school captain Amitava Ghosh, who was a great help during my initial years.

KU: How did you join Calcutta Gymkhana?
I was a regular striker in school and in college also. One of my well-wishers Swapan Lahiri took me to the BG Press ground at Maidan, where Calcutta Gymkhana organized trial matches for 250 boys.
I only played for a couple of minutes, but Gymkhana owner Mr Dilip Ghosh was so much impressed with my long-rangers that he expressed his willingness to train me personally.
In 1973, I was included in Gymkhana’s first XI against Mohun Bagan and scored a goal. The match had ended in a 1-1 draw, with Surajit Sengupta scoring for Bagan.

KU: When did you meet Bidesh?
Bidesh joined Aryan from Bhratri Sangha in 1974. I also joined him the same year. But we got closer and eventually became good friends for ever following an incident during the Junior National Championships in Tripura in 1973.
Our team was put up in a school building, where I stayed on the ground floor while Bidesh was on the first floor.
On a rest day when the team was leaving for a sightseeing tour, I didn’t find Bidesh in the bus. I was told by someone that he was running high fever. I immediately went to his room and saw him shivering. I got very upset with the team manager Pashupati Bhattacharya after having learnt that Bidesh wasn’t served food the previous night. I cancelled the trip and brought some food for Bidesh and stayed with him the entire day. It was the beginning of a solid friendship, which only got stronger as the years wore on.

KU: So, both of you were together ever since?
In a way, yes. When he signed for Bagan in 1976, I joined him the next year. While we were at Aryan, we got a job at AG Bengal on the same day and then had quit and joined Central Bank of India together.
We had a great understanding on the field and had scored most of the goals from his corners.
Our bonding on and off the field is all about respect and love.
After my wife’s death, I was completely broken. But it was his inspirational words which had helped me to return to normalcy.

KU: Who else had boosted your career?
Subhash Bhowmick, who was my team-mate at Bagan, and Achyut sir. I won’t ever forget their contributions. Bhowmick had taught me the tricks of dodging and how to hoodwink an opponent player. Achyut sir improved my shooting skills after the scheduled trainings.

KU: Do you remember any of your memorable matches?
It’s difficult to give a count, but the match against Cosmos in 1977 will rank as one of the most important matches in my career. We didn’t had the opportunity to talk to Pele, but shook hands with him before the match. Then the 1978 IFA Shield final against Ararat Yerevan and the 1978-79 Santosh Trophy in Srinagar, where I had scored the only goal against Goa in the final were some of my memorable matches.