Indian Football

A 19th century visionary: The legend behind one of India’s first football scouts

The story of how a scout revolutionised football in Kolkata in the early days.

With the Fifa U-17 World Cup underway in India, the focus has shifted onto the youth football scene of the country. While all the developed footballing nations have reaped the benefits of investing heavily on scouting, India have made little progress on that front due to its long-lasting nonchalance.

The seeds, though, were sown pretty early by a visionary in the late 19th century.

After being barred by the British from participating in the competitive matches for almost two decades, Indian football enjoyed a new lease of life in the 1880s, when a number of new clubs were founded in and around Kolkata.

Mohun Bagan was the biggest name to have out of the boom and Umeshchandra Majumder was involved in the planning stages. However, he parted ways before the club came into being and formed the Aryans Club in 1889.

Majumder was a well-known centre-half in his time, but his footballing career has been overshadowed by his contributions off the field. A penchant of unearthing new talents took him to distant villages and towns of the region. In the last few years of the 18th century, he became a regular face in all major footballing hubs, leaning on his cycle and following the action with unabated attention.

And results followed. Among the best of his students were the two brothers, Shibdas and Bijoydas Bhaduri, both pivotal parts of Mohun Bagan’s immortal 1911 IFA Shield winning squad. Surya Chakraborty from Jalpaiguri, Habla Bhattacharya from Behrampore, Samad from Purniya were some of his most prominent findings from outside Kolkata.

Back in the day, playing football for the big teams earned one respect but it was not a lucrative profession, since the concept of wages hadn’t arrived in this part of the world. The young footballer, hence, was mostly cash-strapped and had to be taken care of by a football-loving patron. Dukhiram, as Umeshchandra was popularly known, played this role too.

Amidst the communal tension of the thirties, he helped Samad learn Bengali and put him up in a Hindu household as Santosh – a common name among Bengali Hindus. Samad, who played mainly for Railways and Mohammedan Sporting, was arguably the best Indian footballer of the thirties, mainly due to his inimitable ball-control and trickery. When a footballer named Haridas was diagnosed with tuberculosis, Majumder used to cycle almost 15 km to supply him drinking water every morning.

It didn’t take much time for other clubs to be aware of his heroics. It was not only his industry that set him apart, but his efficiency; as other teams, most notably Mohun Bagan, also tried their hand in scouting in the twenties, but couldn’t emulate Majumder’s success.

In his seminal work Kolkatar Football (Kolkata’s Football) published in 1955, veteran journalist Rakhal Bhattacharya gave an example of how other clubs tried to piggy-back on him: “Once Mohun Bagan sent a person, who followed him on one of his tours to the suburbs. Once he got interested in one player, the spy asked nonchalantly – ‘Are you going to sign him?’ However, Dukhiram was well aware of these ploys and showed his irritation – ‘This guy? He will not become a footballer even in his next seven births.’ After the spy left, he signed the player.”

Under his tutelage, Aryans, who never had the finances to compete with the likes of Mohun Bagan, Dalhousie and the other British sides, became the topmost breeding ground for young Indian talents.

Many players, who were given their first chance in Kolkata Maidan by him, later left for greener pastures, but Purna Das, Prakash Ghosh, Balaidas Chatterjee (who later became India’s coach in 1948 Olympics), Rupchand Dafadar all became household names in a region where football was being constantly projected as a medium of nationalism. Even Gostha Paul, the legendary defender, played one season for them.

All the aforementioned players were spotted in their teenage years by Majumder, but in case of his nephew Santosh (Chhone), the classes started early. Chhone was taught to play in all positions and had appeared as goalkeeper, centre-half and left-out in major tournaments – a rare feet among Indian footballers.

Majumder, considered to be the first successful Indian football coach and scout, was revered by the British as well. In 1914, when the Raj finally allowed two Indian teams to be part of the Calcutta Football League second division, Aryans were inducted along with popular Mohun Bagan.

They got promoted in their second season and finished fourth in the 1920-’21 season, their biggest achievement before reaching the Rovers Cup semi-final in 1928. Majumder’s premature death in 1929 was a big blow to the country’s blossoming football culture.

Dukhiram’s legacy, like that of Aryans – who share their ground with East Bengal – has waned with time. Sir Dukhiram Majumder Football Coaching Centre, started by another successful coach Achyut Banerjee, hasn’t produced many top-class footballers. Ironically, former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly remains its most famous student.

As the U17 national team tries to make their mark on the global stage, it’s high time we remember the legend who ignited the flame.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

When house hunting is as easy as shopping for groceries

The supermarket experience comes to a sector where you least expected it.

The woes of a house hunter in India are many. The dreary process starts with circling classifieds in newspapers and collecting shiny brochures. You flip through the proposed and ready designs that launch a hundred daydreams on the spot. So far so good. But, every house hunter would attest to the soul-crushing experience of checking out a disappointing property.

The kitchen of a 2BHK is carved from the corner of the hall, the 3BHK is a converted 2BHK, the building looks much older than in the pictures…. after months of reading the fine line, and between the lines, you feel like all the diagrams and highlights seem to blur into each other.

After much mental stress, if you do manage to zero in on a decent property, there’s a whole new world of knowledge to be navigated - home loans to be sifted through, taxes to be sorted and a finance degree to be earned for understanding it all.

Do you wish a real estate platform would address all your woes? Like a supermarket, where your every need (and want) is catered to? Imagine all your property choices nicely lined up and arranged with neat labels and offers. Imagine being able to compare all your choices side by side. Imagine viewing verfied listings and knowing what you see is what you get. Imagine having other buyers and experts guiding you along every step while you make one of the most important investments in your life. Imagine...

MagicBricks has made every Indian house hunters’ daydream of a simplified real estate supermarket a reality. Now you have more than a pile of brochures at your disposal as the online real estate marketplace brings you lakhs of choices to your fingertips. Instead of bookmarking pages, you can narrow down your choices by area, budget, house type etc. Just so you aren’t hit by FOMO, you can always add a suburb you’ve been eyeing or an extra bedroom to your filter. But there’s more to a house than just floor space. On MagicBricks, you can check for good schools in the vicinity, a park for evening walks or at least an assured easier commute. Save time and energy by vetting properties based on the specs, pictures and floor plans uploaded and have all your niggling concerns addressed on the users’ forum.

Shortlisted a property? Great! No need to descend down another spiral of anxiety. Get help from reliable experts on MagicBricks on matters of legalities, home loans, investment, property worth etc. You can even avail their astrology and Vastu services to ensure an auspicious start to life in your new home or office. With its entire gamut of offerings, MagicBricks has indeed brought the supermarket experience to real estate in India, as this fun video shows below.

Play

Get started with a simplified experience of buying, renting and selling property on MagicBricks here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of MagicBricks and not by the Scroll editorial team.