MOTI Nandy is known to have created an entire oeuvre of fiction centring on sports. In this book under review there are two novellas on the game of football.
In the story titled ‘Striker’ Prasoon, a youngster who is not yet an adult, dreams of becoming one of the best footballers but, when his father is approached by a foreigner to allow permission to the young Prasoon to play for his Brazilian club, Santos, the father refuses to sign the contract saying angrily that he would not like to lead his son to a life of damnation as he himself had been subjected to when he had hurt himself on the football field and when neither the state not the club he represented came to his assistance.
Prasoon goes daily for football practice on the Maidan. His friend Ratan tells him to “increase his weight and never skip a meal but grab food off his family’s plates to succeed.” He also tells Prasoon to shift to another club rather than be confined to the Shobhabajar. Once, while returning home, Prasoon runs into his friend Nilima who incites him to avenge his father’s humiliation by achieving greatness through football and entering the Indian team. Poverty drives him to take up a job at a petrol pump. He also leaves Shobhabazar Club and joins Shonali Shangha, where he proves his mettle and receives rave reviews in newspapers.
He carves a place for himself in the game and is offered Rs 6,000 and a bank job if he were to agree to play for Jatri. He agrees to the terms but is made to sit out on the bench in the initial games. In the final game he is given a chance to show his game as he scores the winning goal in the final minutes.
In the second story titled ‘Stopper’, Kamal Guha is a widower with a son Amitava who like his mother hates football. Kamal had failed to be present near his wife in the hospital because the telegram conveying the news had been withheld from him as he had to play the semi-final against Hyderabad Police the next day.
Kamal joins Juger Jatri after seeking transfer from Mohun Bagan. But he is made to warm the benches for the first seven games. In the eighth game, with Jatri leading 5-0 against Sporting Union, Kamal is told to warm up.
Both the stories capture the drama on the football field with its heady highs and crushing lows; with its heroism and ignominy of sport.
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