Sailen Manna, Mohun Bagan Legend, RIP

Sailen Manna, 87, passes on the 27th Feb 2012. Was a part of Kolkata, a part of Mohun Bagan, an a part of Indian football. Here’s a superb article from The Economist.



Aamra-i Mohun Bagan

I have been raving about this movie, and tripping on this song for a while… it isn’t a masterpiece or anything, but to a born Mohun Bagan boy (a baganboy, i.e.) this is like the nineth symphony.

Hiralal Mukherjee; Bhuti Sukul, Rev. Sudhir Chatterjee, Manomohan Mukherjee, Rajen Sengupta, Nilmadhav Bhattacharya, Kanu Roy, Habul Sarkar, Abhilash Ghosh, Bijoydas Bhaduri, Sibdas Bhaduri (c)…….

Thank you.

    Aamrai Mohun Bagan

Amader surjyo Maroon
Nadhir taan shobuj ghashey
Amader khunj-le pabey
Sona-y lekha itihas-ey

Amader surjo Maroon…

Amader roktey khela
Khelar chholey biplobee besh
Aamra-i kokhono mukh
Kokhono dol kokhono desh..

Jonmechi mathaye niye
Khelowaari porowaana
buker ei koljey boley
Lorai koro, haar na maana

Jonmechi mathaye niye…

Dekho oi orhe nishaan
khela-r akaash cho’war sopan
Aamra-i Mohun Bagan…. Mohun Bagan.

Beparowa khelar sahosh
Khelar bibek khelar nobab
Aamrai bhin-deshi’der
Birudh-dhey ei desher jobab


Mahindra United pulls out of the i-League

Sad sad day for Indian football.

The Mahindra Group has decided to refocus its support to football by concentrating on building the sport at the grassroots and community level. As a result, Mahindra United Football Club will move out of competitive football at the end of the current I-league season. The company plans to create a nation wide school-level football initiative which will enable skills development and enhance the awareness and appreciation of the sport at the grassroots level.

This is from Go here for the rest of the article.

M&M has always been a top football team, and along with JCT Phagwara, one of the bulwarks of football in the non-traditional Indian football venues (i.e. outside of Bengal, Kerala and Goa). I had once interned with Mahindra&Mahindra, and I remember old maidan mates of mine fearing if I would change my allegiances from Mohun Bagan to M&M. Of course I didn’t, but M&M has always been my third team in the i-league (Dempo, with their flowing, classy football has been second team for ever.. Camilo Gonzalves, Mauricio Alfonso, Mahesh Lotlikar… what players they had!)

Anyway, this is about Mahindra United. I will miss them.

Anand Mahindra twitters: So many Mumbai voices lamenting our pullback frm professional soccer.Never heard them when we needed their attendance&support at our matches.

Cannot agree more with Mr. Mahindra. And greatly appreciate the initiative for grassroots growth of Indian football.

We are all about symbolism. We are all about ‘yeah we support football, we support Indian football‘. Show it with your feet, guys. Go watch some matches. Or just shut up with your symbolism. Your token sympathy votes do not buy the clubs better players or better infrastructure.

Ensure the TV is on when the i-league matches are there. Have a team you support. Visit this site here (click). The football in the i-league is not half as bad as you think. If you can watch Wolves vs. Stoke, you certainly can watch Dempo vs. Lajong. Yeah, maybe the standards are not high. Yes, maybe Lajong will get thrashed by 3-4 goals by Stoke. But how would you care? You are consumers. You need excitement, and I can assure you there is more excitement in a Dempo-Lajong match than a Wolves-Stoke match. I watch both.

Save Newcastle United

Now I am nlsonot a Newcastle supporter by a long shot. My primary interest in them is whether they get the loss they should get against Arsenal, and whether they are able to get a draw or something against the others of the big 4.

But we all know the recent Mike Ashley saga, don’t we? King Kev thrown out… Ashley wining and dining the Arabs, and asking for GBP 400 M… Now really, GBP 400 M!!! And now a Nigerian consortium is trying to buy Ashley out …

And here comes Save Newcastle United. Remember, last season, there were similar talks about Liverpool being bought over by the fans…. but that came to nought. This, I hope is better.

I do know that Newcastle United one of the few other clubs the world over which can claim to be ‘more than a club’. I will agree to Barcelona, and Mohun Bagan. Newcastle, similarly, is a part of local / community pride, and is really a Geordie symbol just like Barcelona is Catalan.

John Nicholson (from oop north himself) puts it better than most:

Now is not the time for faint hearts, the time for the whining and whinging and bitching to stop has come. It’s no use just hoping something better will come along and make everything alright. It’s time to take NUFC, a quintessential ‘people’s club’, to the bosom of those who love and understand it best. A peoples’ revolution to over-throw the regimes which seek only to profit financially from the club or who want to use it as a play-thing or as a place to do their corporate business deals.

Click here for the entire article, on F365.

And here is the site for Save Newcastle United- click here. So if you feel you can do something, please go ahead.

I can tell you this much, if a similar fate befalls Mohun Bagan, I will chip in. with quite a bit of what I have got.

I am a plastic fan. This is my defense. Our defense.

I am what you call a plastic fan. Of Arsenal. And Barcelona. I am from Bangalore, India, and here’s my defense. And that of the millions that you ridicule every day.
I love the game. Having been initiated into football via the magical skills of Diego Madarona in ’86, I cannot think of life without the game. I have played the game at a reasonable level, and still try to manage a game every weekend. Not very different from you, am I?
I have an Indian club I love, Mohun Bagan AC. I don’t stay in my city of origin, Kolkata (Mohun Bagan is from that city), anymore, so I don’t get to go to the stadium too many times anymore (Bangalore to Kolkata is 2000 miles, yes, that was 2000 miles), I used to be a regular. I wept after a defeat, especially to our eternal rivals, East Bengal FC. I was jubilant after wins. I still am, watching the matches on TV. I am what you call a normal football fan, I love my club.
Just like you love Huddersfield. Just like you love Bradford, just like you love Derby.
But I also love the game itself. And I am honest enough to accept that Mohun Bagan, or East Bengal, or Dempo, or Mahindra Utd. , don’t really provide that kind of football. That does not make me love my club any less, that just makes me want to get a chance to watch and enjoy better football too.
And therefore came the Premiership. And therefore came the Primera Liga. I love how well they play the game I love in your country. And in Spain. There is the television, and I don’t miss a match.
I am watching the league from 1998 (that is about the time when the Premier League started being aired regularly in Indian TV, thank you Star Sports / ESPN), I was 18 then. Tony Adams is my hero, and Dennis Bergkamp is only second to Diego Maradona in the God-stakes, in my book. I HATE Luis Figo, he’s the real Judas. I am jubilant when Arsenal wins, I am dejected when Arsenal loses. I follow every match, I follow the post-season, and just like you, I wanted us to have a holding midfielder too. And no, I didn’t want Alonso, I wanted Toulalan. Ah, wishes… I am a fan.
And yes, I have been to your stadia (not to the Emirates or Highbury, sadly. Never stayed in England long enough to manage that yet), and I know that the tears that you cry when your club loses will never be the same as my sadness at an Arsenal defeat. But I know the tears, I have cried them after a Bagan loss.
But does it mean that our sadness at an Arsenal defeat counts for nothing? We came to the premiership looking for great football, we found a club we would like to follow, and we followed the club. And devoted we have been, for the last ten years. And yes we don’t have perspective; they started showing the Premier League on TV only ten years ago. I thought we did the best we could as fans. Where did we go wrong?
I thought it was the universal game.
– Godof86 (don’t ever say ‘third world’ again without knowing what the word originates from), Arsenal, Barcelona and Mohun Bagan.

Salaam Stanley Matthews – Review

As you know, I am in the process of reading the educated, researched and serious book on football in India that is ‘Goalless’ (It is good, but does take time.. the next in the pipeline is ‘The Ball is Round’ by David Goldblatt, another tome… but hey, I like research stuff). But in the meantime, due to the holiday on Monday (Labor Day in the US, godbless), I could take time off from Goalless, and finish off ‘Salaam Stanley Matthews’ by Subrata Dasgupta. Now this is not really a sports/ football book as such, but is a memoir of Dasgupta’s when he was in England (Nottingham, and then Derby) between ages 5 to 13. It does focus a lot of attention to life in England as an Indian immigrant, and yes, football, and the crown prince of English football at that time, Stanley Matthews, does have a significant part to play in the book.

I liked the book. There is little pretense, and Dasgupta’s writing is direct and honest. He writes it as he sees it, and does not over-dramatize. The travails of the Indian upper-class boy from snooty high-end Kolkata post-independence in egalitarian England, the whole growing-up saga, is expressed is reasonable detail, and flows smoothly as a nice, consistent read. While I am not from snooty high-end upper-class stock, and I was never affected by the peculiar situation that Dasgupta describes as …

I was, instead, quite unwittingly, the kind of person Thomas Macaulay in the 19th century had talked of when he wrote of persons “Indian in blood or color but English in taste”

… I do relate to the Bengali up-bringing well enough for Dasgupta’s memoirs to be relevant and interesting. And anyway, sport followers are all knit from the same fabric. The normal ways of hero-worshipping the sporting star, following the local club, the very personal joy of the triumph of the favorite club and the despair at a loss, they all ring true. There have been similar personal experiences as well.


And I would like you to savor a specific part of the book which in my opinion expresses the feeling of a ‘non-local’ fan better than most non-fan literature I have read. Dasgupta stays in Derby, and thus is, ‘by location of origin’, a Derby fan.  But he is a worshipper of Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortenson and the flair game of Blackpool as well. And this quandary is discussed in the following way.

.. I certainly came to a kind of rationalization along the following lines. Derby County was the town’s local team. It was like family- one is bound to it by blood ties. Whereas the ‘other team’, whichever it was, was like a best friend. There was no problem in loving a relative and a friend; they were two different kinds of love. As for a third team – like Graham’s Aberdeen – well, that is more a kind of fascination than love or passion, the fascination one has with a distant place or relative across the seas.

I agree. My blood ties are with Mohun Bagan, the only team that I have no choice but to support. I was born a Mohun Bagan supporter, for reasons locational and national.  I cannot support any other Indian team, least of all East Bengal. I have been following Arsenal for far too long for it to be considered anything other than a best friend. I know all the ins and outs of the club, and am fascinated by all aspects of it. And Barcelona is the club I am fascinated by… again, for more reasons than one. Ditto Napoli, but that’s for only one reason. Diego.


And indeed, this book gives me something to think of. Maybe the book I will write someday will be of the boy in some grey, dusty corner of Bengal in India, the proverbial sporting backwaters , playing sport with passion and fervor, and becoming a convert to the exquisite, gorgeous sporting skills and personal tribulations of Diego Maradona, of Boris Becker and of Mohammed Azharuddin. And becoming a convert to sport.

India – football and the class barriers

Dileep Premachandran writes in the Times, on Indian football heroes (click here for article)…

The talent is there at junior level, too, and although Baichung Bhutia, the finest Indian player of his generation, rarely got off the bench during a three-year stay at Bury from 1999, few would be surprised if Manchester United unearthed the next Mohammad Salim, the dazzling winger who caused a stir at Celtic in the 1930s, or another Chuni Goswami, the Mohun Bagan star coveted by Tottenham Hotspur in the 1960s.

Indeed, good to read such stuff. But the question that follows is, why hasn’t there been more of such Salims and Chunis?

The real problem, in my opinion, is that football (which has never been a game for the classes, but a popular, populist game for the masses in the rest of the world) has two distinctly different levels of following in India. Neither of who speak to each other. Or if they do, it’s generally only through whispers.

The first are the people who watch and love the game in a way others in Barcelona and Manchester and Liverpool and Rio and Buenos Aires and Accra and Hamburg love it, as player/supporter/fans. These are the people who have a genuine club following and watch games played in India by Indian teams, by going to the stadium or on TV, whenever it is available. Mostly comprising of the lower-income masses (as different from the moneyed classes, a very tacky way of putting it I agree, and will edit this whenever I find a better description), these are the people who fill up the Cooperage, the Salt Lake stadium for the Bengal derby, and even the Kanteerava at times. It is from them that the majority of the football-players of the country come in.

The second are the classes. They support the ManUniteds, the Arsenals, the Barcelonas, the Juventuses and the Real Madrids. At ease with the world, the common passion of the world is theirs too. They look down upon Indian football as poor (which it is in comparison, in all honesty), and don’t have any cultural or emotional attachment to Indian football whatsoever. They would never have gone to a stadium to watch a football match (or rather, better put, never an Indian football match), and a large majority has probably kicked a football only a meagre few times in their lives. They do genuinely love the game though.

The advent of the cable channels (and therefore European football) have certainly made the classes attracted to football, but it has also alienated them even more than before from Indian football. They would rather spend big money going to a pub to watch a North London derby than spending a fraction of that on the National Football League match that was being held in the stadium a mere mile from the pub. It’s only in Goa and Bengal and Kerala that the classes are somewhat interested in the local game.

And really, I would not blame them. Why would they waste their money on a distinctly below-par match on the ground if they do not have an affiliation to a club? It is not about the money, it is about the game, it’s about the entertainment, the emotions. As we say in marketing-speak, it’s about the bang for the buck.

But the net result is that the classes that watch the game on TV and at the pub, do not contribute at all to the development of football in the country.

So then, what does contribute? Well, the class barriers in India are as prevalent as before, but with the advent of globalization and multi-channelled television, European football is now easily accessible to the masses too. Many, many lower-income houses have cable (thus ESPN) anyway these days**.

And therefore, the next generations of Indian footballers will have seen the exploits of Gerrard and Ronaldinho and Eto’o on TV, and thus being another Sisir Ghosh or IM Vijayan or Bruno Coutinho might not be good enough for them, their dreams might be coloured differently from the green-and-maroon of Mohun Bagan, their dreams might just be the colour of the blaugrana of Barcelona.

And really, we just need one name. A George Weah is a once-in-a-lifetime player, and it would be wrong to expect a Weah to be born in some corner of India soon. But possibly even a Benayoun, why, even a Kenwyne Jones would do very well too. India is too big not to follow the lead. Remember, initially there was nobody… and then there was Jeev (tied 9th at the PGA championship! Good job!). And soon after there was Atwal, and Randhawa, and Shiv, and SSP, and Rahil…. We just need one star, an average premiership star will do just fine. We just need one name.

The future might just be bright.


** And please don’t give me statistics of how many poor Indian homes don’t have TV or cable. It’s the comparatively lower-income, and not the poor from whom the footballing masses of India come.

And on the same topic, am reading this book called Goalless, by Boria Majumdar and Kausik Bandyopadhyay, which chronicles football in India, right from the days of Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikary to the 1911 glory of Shibdas Bhaduri’s Mohun Bagan; to the brief encounters at the world stage by those teams of Sailen Manna, T Ao, Chuni Goswami, Peter Thangaraj, Jarnail Singh and PK Bannerjee; to the, indeed, ‘Goalless’ current stage. Will write a review when I am done reading it.]