| Nikhil Nandy at a city hospital Monday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Football Olympian Nikhil Nandy feels players of his era remain largely neglected and their talent unutilised in improving the present-day conditions of the game in India.
For Nandy, undergoing treatment at SSKM Hospital for prostate gland problems, it has been a world more of disillusionment than gratification.
Though his condition is improving and doctors have asked him to rest, this is something alien to the former star half-back, who loves to call himself ‘a man of the Maidan’.
“I feel better now, certainly better than when I was first admitted (at a nursing home in the north of the city). But what still pains me is what I see happening in the name of bettering football,” lamented Nandy, a key member of the team which finished fourth in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
“I can at least take pride in the fact that I belonged to a golden era, during which India had won the Asian Games gold (1951) and finished fourth in the Olympics. Tell me, how many of us have been utilised properly thereafter' We had experience, we had brushed shoulders with the world’s football powers at our times. But neither the All India Football Federation (AIFF) nor the Indian Football Association (IFA) have made any effort to give us the credit due.
“You may invite one Ceric Milovan and another Stephen Constantine, but you can’t have another Rahimsaab (the Indian coach in his time). I still feel Indian coaches are capable of turning things round. What we need more is a professional administration and international exposure,” the septuagenarian Nandy said.
However, what really hurts him is the general indifference meted out to former players.
“When I hear players like Chandreswar Prasad selling their medals to make both ends meet, the reality becomes starker and difficult to digest,” rued Nandy. “No one from the younger generation has bothered to pay me a visit, though I believe they are not unaware of my illness,” he said.
The stalwart, however, appreciated the IFA’s recent effort to give Prasad some financial help by organising Sunday’s one-day football tournament. “The new IFA administration seems to be brimming with new ideas. Let’s see how they manage in future.
Commenting on the need to invest in the likes of Kevin Jackson (East Bengal’s South African physical trainer), Nandy said the IFA too should follow suit, especially at the grassroots level.
“When a player joins a big club, he is expected to be physically fit. The idea of involving a professional trainer into pre-season activities is laudable, but more than East Bengal or Mohun Bagan, such trainers should be invited for nurturing young talent. I think, the football bazaar is where the service of the Kevin Jacksons is required most.
“The clubs will then have an option of buying fitter and better players at a young age. This will help Indian football in general,” Nandy signed off.