Regular-article-logo Tuesday, 05 December 2023

1958 league heroes pat ‘outsider’ champs

'Peerless SC winning is good news for Calcutta football since this happened after 61 years'

Arindam Bandyopadhyay Calcutta Published 03.10.19, 08:35 PM
PK Banerjee

PK Banerjee The Telegraph picture

Much like Leicester City’s fairy-tale run in 2015-16 to win the English Premier League, Peerless Sports Club have smashed a 61-year-old barrier and crowned themselves the champs of the Maidan.

The official confirmation from the Indian Football Association will come after the Durga Puja, but Peerless can party and party hard at becoming the first team outside of the Big Three to have won the title since 1958.


That was the year Eastern Railway won the Calcutta League.

That was also the year a 17-year-old prodigy named Pele burst onto the world stage with his stunning artistry to win the World Cup for Brazil in Sweden.

That’s exactly how long it has taken for the stranglehold of Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting to be broken. And Mohammedan Sporting last triumphed in 1981, an indication of the dominance of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.

So how does it feel to outsmart the big-budget teams of the Maidan? Nikhil Nandy, who was an important member of the 1958 Eastern Railway team, knows a thing or two about that.

“Peerless SC winning is good news for Calcutta football since this happened after 61 years. Honestly speaking, I never thought that I would be able to see any team outside the Big Three win the league. But it’s a reality now. Congratulations to coach Jahar Das and his boys,” the 84-year old told The Telegraph.

“You know when Peerless started playing in the Calcutta league (in 1993), I was their sports officer. So in a way, Peerless is also my team. It’s a proud feeling for me,” he said.

“But they should not rest on their laurels and make every effort to help the club grow,” the Olympian said.

Legendary PK Banerjee, who was also part of the Eastern Railway side, turned nostalgic. “We played really well that year,” PK said.

Fifteen teams were part of the 1958 local league. Each team faced each other twice and Eastern Railway bagged 47 points from 28 matches. They won 22 matches, lost three and drew three matches. PK scored 12 goals in the league.

“It is not easy to win a league. You have to be very consistent to win a league. Coach Jahar Das and his boys have done a great job,” PK added.

Age has weakened his memory, but the 83-year-old still managed to recall something about the memorable season. “Nikhil and myself didn’t play the first three to four matches as we were busy with the national team. But others chipped in to give us a good start. It was team effort.”

“Bagha Shome was our coach. As a student I would not be able to judge him. I will never do that. But I can say — he was like our friend, philosopher and guide. He was a fantastic coach with very sound technical knowledge,” PK added.

Pramatha Bose, who was PK and Nandy’s captain, is proud of Peerless SC’s performance. Asked about the 1958 triumph, Bose said: “I can’t remember much. But we had a very strong team. That much I can tell you.”

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