July 12, 2003, Chandigarh, India
Mohun Bagan relive a chapter in history
Kolkata's glamour outfit Mohun Bagan are reliving a chapter in their chequered history. On July 5 in the derby clash with arch-rivals East Bengal in the Kolkata Super Division, memories of the late fifties came flooding back to the 1.10 lakh spectators at the Salt Lake Stadium. In 1959, a tall, well built Sikh with a hair knot had donned the green and maroon jersey of the club for the first time.
Sport no panacea for
Bagan relive a chapter in history
Kolkata's glamour outfit Mohun Bagan are reliving a chapter in their chequered history. On July 5 in the derby clash with arch-rivals East Bengal in the Kolkata Super Division, memories of the late fifties came flooding back to the 1.10 lakh spectators at the Salt Lake Stadium. In 1959, a tall, well built Sikh with a hair knot had donned the green and maroon jersey of the club for the first time. He was the legendary Jarnail Singh, whose exploits at home and abroad are still part of Kolkata's folklore. As the only football Olympian from Punjab, Jarnail's role in shaping Mohun Bagan's destiny remains etched on the avid Bengali soccer fan's memory.
And about half a century
later, on July 5,2003, to be precise, another Sikh boy with the
traditional hair knot with a white handkerchief mesmerised the crowd
with his neat, effective tackles, and powerful volleys. He was Punjab's
Hardip Singh Saini, who switched over to the Kolkata club from JCT
Phagwara this season. Incidentally, Hardip's father, Mr Gurmit Singh,
and his mother are Amritdharis.
Drawing any comparison between the two would be inappropriate at the moment. Jarnail Singh had started playing for Mohun Bagan for a paltry annual contract of Rs 3500. But his stature in Indian football remains unparalled and unmatched. During his long stint in Calcutta, he was a hero, always surrounded by scores of admirers. A visit to the market place or cinema hall would cause chaos. Even a house-full board outside a theatre would be kicked aside to accommodate him. Top outfits, including Rajashtan Club, where he found his moorings, went out of the way to keep him in good humour.
Fortyfour years down the line, things are different. Hardip Saini's annual contract is about 200 times more than what the legendary Olympian earned on joining the green and maroon brigade. However, what is yet to be achieved is the aura of invincibility or fame that the late Jarnail Singh enjoyed in West Bengal and Punjab.
Three of Saini's team-mates from JCT also opted to play for Mohun Bagan this season, including striker Hardip Gill, stopper back Harpreet Singh and full back Balkar Singh. However, it is only Saini who figures in coach Aloke Mukherjee's scheme of things in the high-profile roster which includes Brazilian recruit Jose Ramirez Barreto and former Vasco striker Marcos Pereira.
Until now, the Mohun Bagan management had not shown interest in recruitment of Punjab players, and Jarnail Singh remained an exception. However, the impressive run of JCT in the National Football League over the past seven years made outstation teams to take notice of their calibre. Earlier, in the early eighties, a couple of players from Punjab played for East Bengal. They were Arjuna awardee Gurdev Singh, the late Manjit Singh and current Chandigarh Football Academy coach Harjinder Singh. Some others like former international Kuljit Singh also donned the red and gold jersey of East Bengal.
Hardip Saini was picked by the JCT management when he was still a college student about seven years back. After JCT won the inaugural National Football League title in 1996, he was drafted into the squad for the super soccer matches. According to former national coach Sukhwinder Singh, Saini, who made his debut against East Bengal at Goa when many players had been summoned for the national camp, was sincere and hard-working. He made an immediate impact and when JCT won the Rovers Cup in 1997, he was declared the best player.
Before joining JCT, Hardip Saini represented Guru Nanak Dev University in the Inter-University Football Championship organised at Panjab University, Chandigarh.
For the past few years, Hardip Saini remained a regular member of JCT in all major tournaments, including the high-profile National Football League. His perfect ball control, intelligent distribution, and accurate long rangers often spelt doom for well-known outfits. Extremely media shy and modest, Hardip Saini has seldom been seen arguing with the referee. During his stay in Punjab, he represented the state in the 31st National Games and helped his team to win the gold in the pulsating final against Goa at Ludhiana's Guru Nanak Stadium.
Reminisces Mr Sital Singh, physical training instructor at Guru Nanak College, Phagwara: "Hardip Saini remained with us for three years and was a fast learner. He made a valuable contribution and for two years consecutively, our team won the Guru Nanak Dev University Inter-College Championship. He was later picked in the university team for the Inter-University Football Championship played in Chandigarh after which he was selected in the JCT team which he represented till last season."
A few years back, Saini was also picked in the Indian team which toured England.
Sports runs in the Sainis' blood. Hardip's father, Gurmit Singh, was also a footballer. Last year Hardip's sister was adjudged the best athlete of Guru Nanak College, Phagwara.
Given his experience and young age, Saini seems destined to leave a lasting impression on the maidan, though it may not be as well defined as the late Jarnail Singh's image.
panacea for political ills
Does sport increase goodwill between people and nations? A look at some of the events that have taken place in the past 50 years, however, tends to question this concept. In fact sport and sporting contests in some cases have often sparked off unheard of violence. In this context one remembers the heady aftermath of a World Cup qualifying match between El Salvador and Honduras in the late 70s. The two countries went to war to assuage feelings spilling over from incidents during the match.
There are other such examples to question the concept of sporting contests contributing to soothing of hurt feelings. There is this one relating to boxing. In July 1910, Reno (Nevada) Jack Johnson beat Jim Jefferies, a K.O. win in the 13th round giving him the World Heavyweight title. This outcome sparked off race riots in the USA. Johnson was ‘black’ and Jefferies, a former champion who came out of retirement was the great white hope for purposes of history, Johnson was the first ‘black’ to wear the heavyweight crown.
Then there is an example with India’s involvement. In the 1962 Jakarta Asian Games Indonesian crowds stormed the Indian Embassy, breaking furniture and tearing down shutters, uprooting trees and troops had to be called to prevent insult to the National Flag. The crowd was furious with Mr. G.D.Sondhi, Vice-President of the games who was also an observer for the IOC. Mr Sondhi had mooted the idea of dropping the word `Fourth from the games because Israel and Formasa (now Taiwan) were banned from participating in the competition. The Indonesian government even cut off trade relations with India.
Sport certainly is no peacemaker. On the contrary, as it has been proved, it is often the other way. One can quote hundreds of cases, particularly in relation to football, when police have had to be called to quell unruly mobs, not only in India but elsewhere in the world.
Yet for all the history of trouble, politicians and star sportsmen of India and Pakistan often resort to seeking of sporting competitions to ease tensions between the two countries. They never tire of the opportunity of wanting to restore sporting ties, particularly in cricket to restore normalcy between the countries.
Thus Imran Khan’s plea for restoration of cricketing ties with India or Jagmohan Dalmia’s willingness to send a team across the border are well meaning exercises. But will they really help normalising relations between the countries? Agreed Pakistan did tour India in the late nineties and even won the series 2-1, the match in Calcutta being completed under police vigilance. Pakistan won the Test in Chennai and lost the Delhi encounter. There was no crowd trouble in these two centres. Even in Calcutta, the trouble had nothing to do with Pakistan or its winning the series.
But would the response have been the same had the series been held in Pakistan? It is difficult to answer that question. The anti-India feelings in Pakistan are much more deeply rooted and there is very little that well meaning authorities could do to check that. The World Cup hockey in Lahore in 1990 was proof enough that India were not welcome there.
One has to remember that the ethos surrounding an India-Pakistan cricket match in particular is quite different. The players may be the best of friends, as are also the officials and a section of the elite crowd. But the general public is different. We know the reaction in India and Pakistan following their meeting in the World Cup in South Africa. While people in India gloated over the victory with some of them even going as far as claiming that this was more important than winning the World Cup, there were reports of suicides in Pakistan. Losing to India was unbearable.
The politicians have done
their worst and the unpleasantness lingers. Both India and Pakistan must
first understand what sport is and then learn to accept defeat before
engaging each other on the field. Irrespective of the efforts at
normalcy it would be wise if India and Pakistan wait for some time
before risking encounters on the field of sport.
Sania Mirza’s feat laudable
Sania Mirza, the 17-year-old Hyderabad girl, made history when on July 6, she alongwith her partner, Alisa Kleybanova defeated K. Bohgmova and M. Krajicek in the Wimbledon Tennis Championship (girls) final. It was worth watching how the Indian girl encouraged her Russian partner when they were down 2-6 in the first set. Their serves and volleys were a treat to watch. She is the first Indian girl to win the Wimbledon in any category. She has already won ITF junior titles and made it to the junior French Open semis. She has done India proud.
Kudos to Serena
Kudos to Serena Williams who obliterated the bitter memories of the French Open. By winning the Wimbledon women’s singles title. In final, she prevailed over her elder sister 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 to retain the coveted and much sought-after Wimbledon crown. After conceding the first set, she raised her game several notches to down sister Venus who fought valiantly despite having an abdominal disorder which had pestered her in her semifinal triumph against Kim Clijsters. However, Serena accomplished the job at hand with grit, gravity, tenacity and perseverance. I congratulate her on her magnificent victory. Poor Venus! She has lost five Grand Slam finals, each time beaten by her younger sister. Isn’t it a heartache for her?
TARSEM S. BUMRAH
Indian hockey needs a big appreciation after victory in the three-nation tournament in Australia and in the four-nation tournament at Hamburg. Gagan Ajit Singh, Devesh Chauhan and the dependable Pillay deserve accolades. Mr KPS Gill deserves praise for infusing discipline. There is no dearth of talent in our country. Like cricket we should have more domestic tournaments.
Although India lost to Australia in the final of the invitation hockey tournament by 2-1, yet the team deserves a standing ovation for their performance. In their opening match the Indians beat Australia ‘A’ 2-0. In their second match, they lost to Australia by 2-0. In their match against the archrivals Pakistan the Indians once again put up a great show to win the match by 2-0. Prabhjot Singh, Dhanraj Pillay and Baljit Dhillon gave an outstanding performance. India lost the two matches due to lack of confidence and faulty passing. They should build on confidence and try to play without any pressure.
Continuing his good form, Marcus Trescothick scored an unbeaten 108 to guide England to victory in the one-day series against Pakistan. It is always a matter of pride for any batsman to score a century at Lord’s. And it becomes more enjoyable when it comes against Shoaib and Sami. By dropping Trescothick on 35 and then again on 93, the Pakistanis dug their own grave. It was a well-fought battle between the two at Lord’s. Kudos to Trescothick for his performance. It will give him enough confidence for the upcoming series against Zimbabwe.