Kamal Santra puts son Krishanu through the paces at a ground near their Thakurpukur home on Tuesday afternoon. Picture by Arnab Mondal
He lived and breathed football till injury forced him off the field when he was 29 and left his dreams in tatters. Fifteen years on, striker Kamal Santra’s hopes have found fresh legs, through his stopper son.
Krishanu Santra, named after Maidan great (late) Krishanu Dey, is one of the 12 Indian players — and the only one from Bengal — to be selected for a training camp at the Manchester United Soccer School for a couple of weeks in November.
The road to Sir Alex Ferguson country via the Airtel Rising Stars contest has been a rocky one for son and father. Krishanu, 14, and Kamal, 44, set out from their tiled-roof house in Thakurpukur at daybreak and travel to the Howrah Corporation Stadium every day for training.
“It takes almost an hour on bike to reach the stadium. After training, I drop him off at Kidderpore, from where he takes a bus to school and I go to work,” said the father. Krishanu is a Class IX student at Barisha High School and his father is a Group D employee at Fort William.
Now, that grind is eyeing a goal. “I can’t believe it. It’s yet to sink in. All the other central defenders at the camp had a better physique than me,” said Krishanu. The best three players from the 12 would be picked for a two-year training programme at the soccer school of the richest football club in the world.
“The way the four Manchester United coaches — Michael McClean, Mick Bennett, Andrew Cunningham and Kevin O’Connell — trained us at the Bangalore camp was a great experience. Here we generally do stretching, warm-up and sprinting without the ball. But there we did everything with the ball and in such a way that we were not feeling exhausted even after three hours of training,” said Krishanu.
His big dream? Of playing for Barcelona, just like his idol Lionel Messi!
That’s something even his doting dad would not dare to dream at the moment. “This is just the beginning. He needs to work harder to enter the league of big boys and survive at that level,” said Kamal, who had enjoyed a four-season stint with Mohammedan Athletic Club. The eldest of eight siblings, Kamal’s childhood was a tough one.
“A lot of days we had to go on an empty stomach. None of my family members wanted me to play football but I always dreamt of playing in big clubs. I worked as helper to a mason to make ends meet and continue playing football,” he said. “I was at my peak when I broke my collarbone in a match. I couldn’t afford the medical treatment and had to quit.”
Kamal started reliving his dream when his son was born. Krishanu took to football at age five. Eight years later, he made it to the under-13 Bengal team and then to the under-13 national team. “It was a dream come true. I never thought I would play for India and that too on foreign soil (AFC Championship in Iran). And now, this trip to Manchester United would be my biggest achievement,” said Krishanu.
What is your message for father and son? Tell firstname.lastname@example.org