The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Subrata’s duel with Bagan

Calcutta: It was ironic, sort of. Former Mohun Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya with Tollygunge Agragami, versus former Tollygunge coach Aloke Mukherjee with Bagan. It was billed as a fight of the coaches.

Okay, that was a bit of over-invoicing. But Bhattacharya tried to make best use of his return to ‘his’ club, as he accompanied Tollygunge out for their match versus Bagan at the latters’ home. It was interesting to watch this tall, lithe man, come out in a No. 9 Brazil shirt (not that he has anything for Ronaldo), and as he waved to the crowd the members’ stand and the white and green galleries broke into spontaneous applause.

His team lost, but Bhattacharya said that’s okay, “one of my teams won.” “Look, it isn’t a question of emotion. The first fact is that we lost because my goalkeeper Chinmoy Banerjee made a silly mistake in handling the free-kick. But more importantly, I was happy that I could be here, that I could tell those responsible for destroying the club (Bagan, this time) that they can’t put me down.”

It was a speech, as good as any. If he was depressed, he didn’t show it. The defeat did jar, but it was time to take in the public adulation too.

Bagan president Swapan Sadhan Bose ambled in for a dekko, and as he wheeled around to the members’ stand, he was taken aback by the “go back, go back” chants. Public sympathy, that this man had handled so well in those early days, was almost entirely gone. The president designation stays, still, the power and empathy seems to have vanished. One could wait for an election.

All that is good news for Bhattacharya, though. “This will have to come to pass,” said the Tollygunge coach. “I am happy with my fans, the Mohun Bagan fans.” So was it emotional when he walked onto the Bagan ground. “Maybe, but that isn’t top of my mind. And it surely wasn’t a coach-vs-coach thing. It’s much more than that, its about Mohun Bagan versus Mohun Bagan.”

Oratory material, that.

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