Sourav Ganguly, former cricket captain of India and the co-owner of Indian Super League’s (ISL) Kolkata franchise, spoke about his fascination with football.
“My first memories of football were my first memories of a sport. Because I never played cricket when I was young, I used to kick the football. Studying in St Xaviers, after 3 pm it was football for me and I didn’t know what a cricket bat was although my brother used to play cricket. And I went on to play football till I was in class 9 and I was pretty good at it,” Ganguly told the franchise's official YouTube channel.
Kolkata’s favourite son also stressed that he was a regular spectator of the local football matches that used to take place in Eden Gardens before the Salt Lake stadium was there.
“I would actually go and watch Mohun Bagan and East Bengal play. My father was a life member of the Mohun Bagan club and I still remember that Green and Maroon card, those wooden ramparts and (the times) when I would finish school at 3 and get on to the bus and get down in front of the Eden Gardens or the Mohun Bagan ground to watch a football game from 4 o’clock,” he recalled.
Ganguly named a few former footballers to point out his allegiance to the game.
“The legends of yesteryear, Prasun Banerjee, Prashanta Banerjee, Bidesh Bose, Manoranjan Bhattacharya, Subrata Bhattacharya and I can name each and every one of them. I have watched them very very closely. So, you could see that as a young boy, it was all about watching football and going to Mohun Bagan and Eden Gardens,” he remarked.
The worst accident in Indian football occurred in the Mohun Bagan - East Bengal derby on 16th August, 1980 taking 16 young lives. As the referee gave Dilip Palit and Bidesh Basu their marching orders in the second half, the gallery burst into agitation. A stampede at the Eden Gardens followed and it resulted in the disaster. Ganguly who was in attendance of the match, remembers that dark day.
“I was in that ground on the 16th of August when so many people died at the Eden Gardens. They jumped from the roof trying to evade all those commotion but ultimately they didn’t survive. So, I have seen football go through thick and thin,” he told.
Taking a cue from his personal experience, Sourav said the franchise will try to take the city to its golden days in football, when the sport used to control its heartbeat.
“Hopefully through Atletico de Kolkata, we will be able to provide the city of Kolkata with some high quality football to get back to the old days, when football was the heart of the city,” he told.
“To get the best players in, to give an environment where people can come and watch football peacefully because the Salt Lake stadium provides that opportunity. And hopefully we can make them enjoy the sport,” Ganguly signed off.