Dr. Tapobrata Sarkar : I come from a hardcore Mohun Bagan family. My father and uncles (none of whom are any more) and brothers were a set of die-hard supporters of the club to the extent that there would be no dinner if we lost to East Bengal. I still remember the day of the famous Shyam Thapa bicycle volley in 1978. I was eight years old, and was watching a rickety TV in my grandmother’s house. I could realize something miraculous had happened and kept on shouting and shouting — later in the evening the elders returned from the ground with maroon-green abir all over and with sweets and “golda chingri.” I still remember we all gathered that night at 10 p.m around the radio — Debdulal Bandopadhyay with his magical voice was presenting the “sangbad bichitra” — invariably the match was discussed and the portion of the relay was played again. Again in the dead of the night, our whole house and the whole locality thundered “goooaaalllll ….” Those were the days — many of them who were there with me then are no more, but the memories of Mohun Bagan has gotten so firmly etched in my heart. I can still smell the fragrance of those days on lonely evenings.
My first memory of the club was from 1977. I remember Baba took me to the Mohun Bagan ground to watch a football match to celebrate the inauguration of the floodlights in the Mohun Bagan ground. I do not remember the name of the team, but it was a Russian team vs Mohun Bagan. I think we lost – the Russians were a powerhouse of football those days — but for the whole time I was standing by the fence and watching my dream players with the ball — I still remember that experience. Then came that tragic match of the League, when we lost to East Bengal by 0-2. I remember that we were all listening to the radio — for some reason Baba had not gone to the ground that day. EB was up by one goal and I was in tears. My mother was trying to comfort me, when we got a corner. Baba said, it will be a goal — but unfortunately Bhaskar saved a tight header from Akbar. We then conceded one more. After the match, I was furious. My sister had made a green maroon flag for me — I tied it up in a bundle and threw it away — somehow I just could not take it any more.
The rest of 1977 was history — the IFA Shield, the Rovers Cup and the Durand Cup. Shyam scored the IFA Shield winner if I remember correctly, and the sports page of the Statesman read the next day, “Bagan Romps Home” with a picture of Shyam sitting on the ground with his hands raised. And of course Cosmos and Pele — yes, Shyam, Habib and Shibaji were gods.
Yes, those were the days — of perhaps the greatest football rivalry in the world. I have grown up in those times — every match between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal was an occasion by itself. For weeks before, the madness would start — and it was genuine madness, full of emotion. On the day of the match, we would gather around the radio — the TV came a little later, around 1978 or so, and my first remembrance of a TV match was Mohun Bagan vs Ararat — I think it ended in 2-2 draw.
When I grew up a little more, Baba started taking me for the big matches. One of the finest memories was the win over EB in 1984 — Babu Mani scored and Eden roared. A few years later, I started to go for the matches on my own, with friends. We were so crazy for Mohun Bagan, we went for many hockey matches also. Anything that had a maroon and green touch would at that time ignite such a passion inside me — it is just unbelievable. And then came the Salt Lake stadium — the story of many smiles and tears — the flying header by Krishanu Dey, the legend of Bablu Bhatchaj — I cannot count the memories.
In 2001, I was working in Mumbai. The Rovers cup was being held in January. My friend and I went to see Mohun Bagan’s match with Iran Youth team. One young man was distinctly catching the eye – I asked my friend who it was – he said that the guy’s name was some Barreto and he had recently joined the club from Brazil. Barreto scored one goal from a header that day and and was a sight to watch. What a player ! On that day we realised that we were witnessing perhaps one of the greatest foreign players to have come to India. Of course the rest is history.
Today when I look back on the last four decades, I feel blessed to be associated with Mohun Bagan. I go a century back into history. There – Shibdas Bhaduri scores and green and maroon kites fly on the Kolkata sky. The scoreline against the British rulers is 1 – 1. Abhilash Ghosh enters the net with the ball. 80 thousand Indians erupt with joy and kites fly again. We are leading 2 – 1. From a long distance people see the kite and cheer. The barefoot Indians can defeat the almighty British. Was I not there in the audience that day ? Maybe I was, like all other common men because Mohun Bagan is the other name of passion of the common man for freedom.
That passion is not possible to explain — the green maroon brigade advancing — the ball kisses the net and the stadium roars. Yes, I can still feel it with closed eyes. Gone are those days from the calendar but not from my hears. Years pass, we all grow old — but something that does not age inside me is my passion for the greatest football club in the world — the icon of India’s independence, the symbol of truth and freedom — my life, my Mohun Bagan !
-Dr. Tapobrata Sarkar (Professor, Physics Department, IIT Kanpur)
Disclaimer : These are personal memories. Sometimes the year or scoreline might be off a little. Please excuse such errors.