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Parents inherit son’s soccer legacy Football salve on family’s loss

- Foundation hosts school tournament to keep alive Beckham fan’s dream

Debanjan Sen dreamt of spending his life playing and promoting football. Parents Debashis and Sreemanti Sen have been trying to spend their lives living their late son’s dream.

A fatal accident in June last year snuffed out La Martiniere alumnus Debanjan’s life at 21. The young man had many plans — he aspired to make football in India as popular a sport as cricket, he wanted to help create footballers who would stand up to the world’s best.

The birth of the Debanjan Sen Foundation last December gave direction to the David Beckham fan’s unfinished dream. And in starting this mission, Lake Gardens couple Debashis and Sreemanti found catharsis.

“The choice was simple. After his death we could have let ourselves be overpowered by his loss or take the path that we have eventually done. We have been inspired by what he was and in many ways a lot of the investment was by him. We are just carrying out his agenda,” Debashis said.

The foundation is currently organising an inter-school football tournament involving 26 city institutions in Debanjan’s memory. La Martiniere for Boys, where he was the captain of the football team, is playing the principal host.

“When Debanjan was in school, he would complain that the entire football season revolved around one match — against La Martiniere, Lucknow,” recounted Debashis, wearing a white T-shirt with the Debanjan Sen Foundation logo on it.

Debanjan had also found it ironical that he won the highest sports award in school for his cricket prowess and not in his favourite sport.

“There weren’t enough matches for him to show how good a footballer he was,” Debashis recalled.

So when Jahan Mehta, director of ad agency Selvel and a trustee of the foundation, came up with the idea of a school tournament, the Sens instantly knew it was just what Debanjan would have wanted.

“It helped that Keventer came forward to sponsor the initiative. We are grateful for the support,” Debashis said.

The semi-finals of the Keventer Cup were played at The Heritage School playground on Wednesday and the final is slated for Friday at La Martiniere for Boys.

“This is the best way to perpetuate his (Debanjan’s) memory and celebrate his short life,” said Sunirmal Chakravarthi, principal of La Martiniere for Boys.

Debanjan’s parents have instituted a separate award for “outstanding footballer of the year at La Martiniere for Boys”.

The foundation had started off by part sponsoring an annual tournament of the Entally Hockey Academy. It also sponsors the football training of 30 boys at Howrah Maidan under former East Bengal player Monojit Das.

Such was Debanjan’s passion for promoting football that he had started working with a sports management company while still in college. In 2010, the then BCom student at St. Xavier’s College joined the Football Players’ Association of India.

In his last semester, Debanjan did a project on marketing football as a sport. It was so good that his principal wanted to give it to the Calcutta University, his parents recounted. “We didn’t realise his popularity then. We now do,” Debashis said.

Debanjan’s younger brother Debdatta, a third-year BCom student at St. Xavier’s, is one of the trustees of the foundation. He and his parents find strength in the work the foundation is doing.

“The three of us wanted to remember him differently. And when anyone else remembers him, they should remember him with a smile,” Sreemanti said, her eyes welling up.