Satya da, early stage of your football career is a much known story. Can you tell some special or little known story of early days in your football career? Be it of your experience of playing for India or for Mohun Bagan.
Satyajit Chatterjee: Before playing for India I have to say about Mohun Bagan as my life evolved around that team first! But before I start telling you stories about my career I would like to mention some special names and organizations who made me Satyajit. Definitely George Telegraph, Bali Pratibha have a huge contribution in my football career. Also I got immense support from some individuals like Santosh Sarkar, Rabin Patra (in my childhood), Pradip Chatterjee, Lyangcha Mitra whom I believe I should mention specially. Also from my family Kartik Chandra Chattopadhyay and Krishna Kamal Chattopadhyay are also those who tuned my life in the string of football. Whenever I think of the coaches of my life, first name is Amal Dutta, Amal da. I worked as his assitant coach as well.
Now let me come back to your first experience in Mohun Bagan.
Satyajit Chatterjee: A big drama was there before I joined Mohun Bagan in 1986. Actually I made my initial contract with East Bengal. I have already mentioned that Santosh Sarkar had a huge role in my football career. That time he was a spotter for all big clubs of Kolkata. Somehow East Bengal came to know about me from him. He was coach of George Telegraph as well as junior national team that time. Jiban da came to know about my skill that time from Santosh da and contacted me. Even he took me to East Bengal ground after trial of Santosh Trophy. Nitu da took me to Poltu da as well. In presence of Suprakash Gargari it was decided that I would join East Bengal. Suddenly something special happened. Santosh trophy trial was of almost one month duration that time under the coaching of Amal da in Rabindra Sarobor. Some senior players of Mohun Bagan like Pratap Ghosh, Prasanta Banerjee, Bablu da (Subrata Bhattacharya) liked my football and started to get in touch with me. They also started to convince me to join in Mohun Bagan. One day, while came back from trial I found Biru Chatterjee and Sailen Manna in my residence. Before telling you further I have to tell you that my grand father was in touch with Gostho Paul, Umapati Kumar that time. It was decided that he would join Mohun Bagan but he didn’t get the support from his conscience to leave Howrah Union. Now, that day Sailen Manna told my grandfather “why is your grandson going to play for East Bengal”? His reply was “because he was not contacted by Mohun Bagan till now!”. Sailen Manna’s reply was “No it can’t happen. He has to play for us”. Then the drama began! Jiban da hold my hand in Howrah station and told “You are going by the words of Sailen Manna even after promising us?” I somehow managed and boarded the train for Jabbalpur to play Santosh Trophy. But every day after the match East Bengal supporters used to create problem in my hotel. In such a scenario Mohun Bagan officials along with some local Mohun Bagan supporters of Jabbalpur took me to Nagpur after the final. Though it was decided that I’ll travel by flight to Kolkata but last time the decision was changed anticipating that East Bengal supporters may create problem at Dumdum Airport. In other train I reached Howrah station late in the night from where I was moved to Gaju Bose’s residence, from there came to Mohun Bagan tent and subsequently moved to IFA tent to sign for Mohun Bagan. That was the beginning of my journey in 1986.
Some special moments of your football life and your role models.
Satyajit Chatterjee: Undoubtedly it is Maradona who was my role model. You can imganine I joined Mohun Bagan in 1986 and in the same year Argentina won World Cup. While looking back to India I can mention some names like Xaviur Pius, Mohammed Akbar, Sudhir Karmakar, Bidesh Bose, Prasun Banerjee, Subrata Bhattacharya, even Manoranjan Bhattacharya though he used to played for East Bengal.
Some special moments in early part of your career.
Satyajit Chatterjee: In 1988 Nehru cup, Amal Dutta was our coach and he tried to impose the 4-4-2 formation for the first time in India. We lost first a few matches by a big margin. But in the Poland match we managed to get a point. I believe, though we lost the last the last match against Russia, the 4-4-2 was established in India with that Poland match. But before it got established Amal da had to face a huge obstacle. After our debacle in the first match, the then ex-players, ex-coaches, and the sports journalists started criticizing the system. I can recall that one day Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi came to meet Amal da and asked him to revert his experiment. But he refused to do it.
As you are telling about Amal Dutta and his experiment please throw some stories of Diamond system now.
Satyajit Chatterjee: That year the first match was at Bangalore. I have seen Amal da horribly tensed before the match about his experiment. I always had a great bonding with him. That season we started to practice in morning and afternoon as well. Once the morning practice was over we used to stay at the club tent. One day, I can recall as the power was off, he asked me to come to club lawn. With some leaves and pieces of paper he started to explain me about the diamond system sitting under a tree. He also told me to take the critical role in that formation. In the first match of Fed cup against Punjab Police I was dropped from the squad just before the game started. I came to ground as a substitute, but we played poorly though we managed to win against in tie breaker. We came to play CFL against Eastern Rail and the system clicked. We defeated Peerless by 4-0 but the best thing is that supporters started to like the performance of the team. I think our performance exploded in Guwahati in the match against Churchill Brothers and we won it in a margin of 6 goals. Don’t know why we could not manage to score goals against East Bengal in semi-final and we lost though we played much better. The announcement about the 3rd place match was made on the ground and we had to travel to Assam again on just the next morning. Suddenly Chima shouted “Enough is enough. I’ll not travel with the team”. Amal da just agreed upon it with a smiling face. The next morning I reached airport and to my surprise I found Chima in the airport before me! Also we found that we all, me, Chima, Hemanta, were wearing the same T-Shirt what we wore at the end of the match. We started the game exactly where we stopped and won it 3-1.
Tell something about the foreigners you played with and against.
Satyajit Chatterjee: I played with many players including Chima, Bareto, Igor. Each of them are brilliant. I like all of them. But you talk about the best player in my opinion is Emeka Ezeugo. It is not that I like his game. I mostly played against him. But I have to admire his total football. I appreciate his skill that was also reflected on his team-mates.
So it seems that as a coach you have high regards for Amal Dutta.
Satyajit Chatterjee: Why not! Let me tell you about the 1986 Durand Cup. That year we lost the first tournament of the season, Airlines cup. But after that we won CFL, Federation and Sikkim Governor’s Gold Cup. I was initially dropped from the squad as I had to play office league. Once office league was over I got a chance in junior national team that time. The team had left for Delhi without me and I was about to join the junior national team. But Amal da told me not to play for the junior team rather asked me to wait till I get chance for the senior team. By that time Mohun Bagan reached semis against JCT. First match was a draw and we won replay with a solitary goal by Debasish Roy. I was listening to the radio commentary of the match and getting ready for the national team. Suddenly I was given a air ticket to Delhi and played the final against East Bengal! I was a pretty junior that time and he was the only coach who could dare to take the risk to field such a young player in a crucial match even in presence of Prasanta Banerjee, Victor Amalraj! I tried my best and we won the derby!
Like success you also faced bad patches in your career. How did you motivate yourself during tough times?
Satyajit Chatterjee: I never thought what I had to achieve. I just played the game with my passion. I played for Bengal, India, but I never dreamed about them. But definitely those dreams were in my subconscious mind. I just love to believe that “what will be will be”. Recently I was listening to an old interview of Ustad Vilayat Khan. He was telling that “I never thought that I would be a great musician. I just loved to play the music and that made me Vilayat Khan”. I also think that I never dreamed to be a great footballer. But just my passion guided me to achieve what I have achieved till now.
Many players are known to be emotional in their last match. Tell us something about your last match.
Satyajit Chatterjee: In 2002 I had a problem with the club officials and decided to retire. Later I came back initially as a assistant coach of Aloke Mukherjee and then assisted Amal da. In 2010-2011 I became coach but resigned as I could not perform well. Later I joined as a mentor group along with Shivaji Banerjee and others.
What is you plan for future?
Satyajit Chatterjee: I have only one prayer to God – to keep me humble and honest for ever. I pray so that I never feel proud of myself and that none can think of me as an egoistic.