Last Sunday, when Sudhir Karmakar played his benefit match in East Bengal ground, the gallery was half-full. Reminiscing his golden days of 70s, he couldn’t help but exclaim, in our days galleries used to always spill over to see football. That was indeed the case as I used to be one of those thronging the field to see my favorite team playing.
Sudhir Karmakar, all of 5’4” and just about 55 kg in his heydays, was a great defender East Bengal had, alongside Ashokelal Banerjee. With Goutam Sarkar and Samaresh Choudhury in the half, and Surojit Sengupta at the wings, East Bengal’s time-tested 4-2-4 formation was formidable to play against, which many trophies in the club-tent would readily testify.
All this came pouring out last Sunday when great footballers of yesteryears congregated to felicitate Sudhir Karmakar. Chima Okerie, the Nigerian East Bengal star of 80s and 90s, while handing over the benefit match money, summed up thus: I’m told if Sudhir Karmakar had been there opposite me, I could never have scored so many goals.
East Bengal ground – a great arena [Picture source]
Today, Indian football is transiting through an uncertain time. Compared to cricket, interest among teenagers in football is less. And even though, the National Football League (NFL) is now an important event in the nation’s soccer calendar, there isn’t much concerted effort to catch and nurture young talents.
In spite however of all this, I remain a staunch believer that Indian football is set to make a new beginning. As the country’s economy improves, it will certainly pull up other creative activities, including of course football. Say ‘Hi’ to that.
Related reading: East Bengal wins CFL