Hiralal Mukhopadhyay is one of the fortunate 11 soldiers fought and won an unequal battle against the East York in 1911. Aitrayee Sarkar revisits the decaying memories with Hiralal’s successor Gautam Mukhopadhyay.
When Shibdas Bhaduri was given the responsibility of preparing Mohun Bagan for the Indian Football Association (IFA) Shield of 1911, he changed the entire composition of the team. Bhaduri, who was the captain of the team then, brought in Avilash Ghosh, dropping experienced Sarat Singha. Later, that decision proved a master stoke as Ghosh scored in the Shield final against the mighty East York. The Indian football fans, especially the game lovers of Kolkata, often recall that history and become nostalgic. To them the wining of the Shield in 1911 by Mohun Bangan defeating the Englishmen was an event that has given them the opportunity to glorify their past. Bengalis are often called a reminiscent community. But unfortunately, they are somewhat indifferent to their roots. Their ‘selective recollection’ of the Shield final of 1911 is a perfect example of that.
|Old Hiralal (sitting first from the left) in club tent|
Gautam Mukhopadhyay shared a few stories about his, Dadubhai, Hiralal with us. One particular story is worth mentioning-- years after winning the Shield one day Hiralal came across his captain Shibdas Bhaduri in the market. Bhaduri tried to dodge him from behind but Hiralal remained unmoved. Later, the goalkeeper told his captain “Aj o parle na” (cannot cross me even today).
Talking about lack of authenticity of the available information on Hiralal Mukhopadhyay, Gautam said, he was a student of the Shibpur Engineering College but unfortunately, he was portrayed as a brick kiln worker in a recent movie. Hiralal could not complete his degree as the then British authority of the College expelled him for playing the Shield final on 29 July, 1911. Being failed to get permission from the College authority to play the match he jumped over of the walls of the institution.
Gautam Mukhopadhyay, who himself played club football in Kolkata, complained that the heroes of 1911 have become victims of the petty club politics of Mohun Bagan. “The club is not bothered to erect a statue in memory of these great men in front of its main entrance”, he regretted. Adding insult to injury is the much-hyped Mohun Bagan Ratna (the jewel of Mohun Bagan) medallion given to Hiralal Mukhopadhyay’s family in 2010 has already started to show signs of decaying. “I don’t know what they (the club authority) wanted to mean by giving such a medallion! We never expected anything (from the club). So there was no need to give the award. What matters to us is intention, we are not hungry of fame”, Gautam Mukhopadhyay added.
The Mukhopadhyay family could not hide their disappointment and they, in fact, are in no mood to spare anyone. They feel betrayed and insulted. But once in a while people still come to them with queries about the great Shield victory by Mohun Bagan. Gautam patiently shows them his collection of old photographs, articles and letters preserved with due affection. I wonder whether the hero hidden in him would ever get the opportunity to pass over the legacy of memories in safe hands.
The writer is an editor of WebPressClub