My Amazing Football Coach

A personal anecdote today, okay? A bit of a teary-eyed personal anecdote. Don’t you love those? Read on.

Debabrata Ghosh was the Arts & Crafts teacher at St. Vincent’s. He also used to stay at our neighborhood in Apcargarden, Asansol. As in most small towns (or as it was in those days), neighborhoods are communities, so my parents knew him well. He was a big, gruff, heavyset man with a bit of a temper. I was terrified of him in the lower classes in school (not least because I had no skill whatsoever at art and crafts). I also hardly played sports those days. I was a docile kid.

One day, my mom came back from office, and asked me, “Why don’t you play football?”

“Uh, football? I cannot run. I am slow, no?” What I did not say was that the fitter, slimmer kids would invariably be better players. Then, the one skill I had, that of merging seamlessly into the background, will be broken. This was the reason I was hardly ever bullied at school.

“Oh that is rubbish”, Ma said. “Listen, Debu Ghosh is running a football coaching class in the neighborhood park. Go and join. I saw him while coming back from office, and he told me that if he, at 100kgs of weight, can play and teach football, surely you can as well. I have enrolled you.”

Oh God! I was terrified. All will be lost now.

And truth to be said, all was lost. Debabrata Ghosh was an impossibly hard taskmaster. He made us run and run, and shoot and shoot, and trap and trap, and receive and receive, and tackle, and head, and shoulder-charge, and overlap and cross and take free-kicks and do push-ups and sit-ups and do a hundred drills. Endlessly. The other boys were all better than me at football. It was horrible. Horrible.

Then one day, it was not that horrible anymore. I did not become fast overnight (that would come later), but I developed the art of the tackle. I figured out the nuances of trapping and receiving. I developed a reasonably decent shot, I could shoot equally well with both feet, and I could even do it on the run.

Suddenly, one day, I was not the plump boy who was to be picked last anymore. Suddenly, one day, I could give a passable impression of a footballer. Suddenly, one day, I was part of the pack. Suddenly, one day, I had a nickname – I was Chima, named after the fearsome Chima Okorie of East Bengal Club. Suddenly, one day, I was playing for the neighborhood team, for the school team.

Suddenly, one day, I belonged.

In later years, Ghosh Sir from school would become Babu-da of the neighborhood. He was still large, still gruff, he still had a temper. He was also the person who helped make me fall in love with the sport. A few days before I would leave my Asansol for good, I went by to his house and touched his feet.


We are old Asansole-ites. We are old Vincentians, Me, then my cousin, and then the other cousin. The middle cousin, Prith Bakshi, sent me a PM today morning. “Bro, check out my recent fb update. On one of the SVS legends”.

I saw the video that is attached to this post. And choked up a little.

Debabrata Ghosh, our Babu-da, is still changing lives. Like he changed mine, a quarter-of-a-century ago.



Antique / First Edition Sports Books

One might not know that I’m a collector of first-edition, autographed and antique cricket / sports books. And I have some pretty special pieces.

Here are a few places from where more could be sourced

William H Roberts (Huddersfield, UK)

Boundary Books (Oxfordshire, UK)

Christopher Saunders (Newnham on Severn, Gloucestershire, UK)

Martin Wood (UK)

Please do inform if you know of any forums (such as this) which cater to this, or any other places you know of which sell this kind of stuff. And reach me on my email if you have something to sell.

As for the why, here’s a must-read, from Bauman Books.

As you hold in your hands the first edition of any great book, you hold a part of its history: that moment when it was first presented to the world, new and original, without commentary or judgment. In that book you hold, there is an echo of all of the trials it has survived, from intentional destruction through censorship to the more mundane years of handling and simple neglect. 

Many of the most desirable first editions battled great odds to survive. Only 1250 copies of Darwin’s landmark On the Origin of Species were printed, and all were sold on the first day; the publisher had vastly underestimated the demand. Walt Whitman was hard-pressed to find financing for the first edition of his extraordinary Leaves of Grass, which consisted of only 795 copies–part of it typeset by the poet himself. It is believed that the first printing of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights numbered as few as 250 copies, and today it is counted among the great rarities of English literature. Although it is not exactly known how many copies of Shakespeare’s immortal First Folio were printed, there could not have been many: surviving copies are exceptionally rare. 

From The Roar: Australian sport is for all fans, regardless of who you are

This is an incredibly good article, from The Roar, Australia. Please click here to read. An excerpt is as under.

“You’re into AFL? You?” This is the typical surprised reaction I get when I tell people how excited I am about the new season starting this year.

New players, new coaches. I have carefully organised babysitting for months in advance and am literally counting down to that first game tomorrow night.

Yet somehow this seems strange for someone like me to follow sport – that is, female and non-white.

I have played, watched and loved sport for as long as I can remember. I have flown interstate to watch the Blues, stayed up all night to watch Sampras and left a girlfriend’s engagement to watch a World Cup game.

This doesn’t mean that I can’t also be addicted to Sex and the City, drool over Tiffany blue boxes and hasten to see Kate’s baby bump grow.

These two worlds are not mutually exclusive.

Gender equality can be extended beyond the sporting arena not just in equal pay, equal air time and equal sponsorship but also towards the spectators and their equal interest and commitment to the game.

One friend suggested that I was a lesbian because I followed the Southern Stars, while another assumed my interest was in males running around in tight clothing.

Is it really that hard for people to see women passionate and educated about sport? The idea that a game with its multitude of rules and positions is too complex for women, not only belittles the fans but the game as well.

So, if it’s not about being female, that leaves the issue of race.

Given my heritage it was inevitable I would like sport – raised in Australia with British and Indian roots. Resistance was futile.

DD’s Khel Ka Superstar ’10

Did I tell you I was on the Khel ka Superstar quiz on Doordarshan, ’10? I lost in the semifinals.

Is it because the quiz itself was not too good (lots of mug questions, as we call them; Multiple choices – the bane of serious quizzers.. which I once was, and still do love the art and science of quizzing; and the choices being no-brainers at times, and absolute weird ones at other times), that it does not stay in the mind for long if compared to the University Challenge quiz, which was really an amazing, amazing event… still vivid in the mind after all the years.

Probably it was soon after the UC’03 that I lost that urge for quizzing. I remained interested for a while more, but the passion for the sport of quizzing was pretty much gone post that. I still quiz, very occasionally. But quizzing does not play much of a part in my life anymore.

So yes. Semi-retired quizzer. That’s me.

Where’s the sport?

IPL bores the life out of me.

EPL is not working out this season. Arsenal’s piss poor. Chelsea’s a little more piss poor. United’s a little less piss poor.

The Champion’s League is ‘only Barcelona’. I watch the matches, but with a devout dispassion.

The Masters’ was no fun.

Solis tripped and fell.

There are no grand slams happening now in tennis.

I have stopped watching F1 a while back – nobody to love with a passion – Senna. Nobody to hate with a passion – Schumacher. Nobody to follow with a passion, love or hate – Alonso (who is there but not quite).

Probably the world cup win took too much out of me.