Indian Football: Surajit Sengupta the flycatcher who was more than 'just a player'
After his friend's demise, Ranjit Mukherjee spoke on Surajit Sengupta's versatility as a writer, actor and more
Indian international and former East Bengal legend Surajit Sengupta passed away yesterday at 70 after fighting against COVID-19 in a private hospital in Kolkata.
Regarded as one of the finest of Indian football, Surajit Sengupta plied his trade with all three Kolkata giants throughout his career. He formed an iconic trio with striker Ranjit Mukherjee and Shyamal Ghosh, famously known as "Moidan r Manikjor".
After his friend's demise Ranjit Mukherjee, who believes Surajit Sengupta was "not like any other footballer" spoke up close and personal to The Bridge.
"Surajit was always an introvert. However, he used to share things with me and Shyamal Ghosh. I, Shyamal and Surajit shared a great bond and we continued to do the same till his last day," said Ranjit Mukherjee.
"He was well educated and had a terrific knowledge of the sport. There were very few footballers in the country at that time who could use their brain with the ball on their feet. And Sura was the best among them."
Surajit Sengupta and Ranjit Mukherjee were regular members of the Bengal team. Their journey started with the state team in 1972. However, the partnership between the winger and the striker reached its peak when the duo signed for East Bengal.
With PK Banerjee at the helm, East Bengal dominated Indian football at that time as they went on to win the Calcutta football league for a record six-time in a row.
"He signed for East Bengal in 1974 and I joined them the next year. In 1975, we won the league for the sixth time in a row, breaking Mohammedan Sporting's record." quipped the legend.
This Red and Gold side then demolished their arch-rivals, Mohun Bagan, 5-0 in the IFA Shield finals. Surajit Sengupta opened the scoring for East Bengal and then went to assist twice. However, the third goal that Ranjit Mukherjee scored with a 35 yards stunner is considered as the best of the lot.
"Surajit scored the first goal. I scored the third goal from a long ranger. Surajit then dribbled against 4-5 Mohun Bagan players and delivered the cross for Shyam Thapa for the fourth goal. He was exceptional in that match," reminisced Ranjit.
Known as one of the best wingers of India, Sengupta's biggest asset was his ability to deliver accurate crosses inside the box. Surojit was often asserted as a "dancer across the wing" for his silky, gliding moves across the flank. There is no doubt in saying that Surojit Sengupta was one of the major "crowd pullers" and went on to become the "flycatcher"
While affirming this Mukherjee said, "I have played with many wingers throughout my career, however, Surajit was unique. He used to deliver pinpoint crosses for strikers from where you can only score."
He further added that Asha Bhosle once attended a derby match in Brabourne stadium, only to witness Surojit playing and this perfectly defines the legend's flamboyance
A Man of Principles and Versatility
After hanging his boots, Surajit once again went "against the stream". In spite of having immense footballing knowledge, the veteran didn't join coaching. While regretting this, Ranjit Mukherjee said, "One of the things that I always regret is that we could never have Surajit's brain as a coach. He was associated with Jadavpur Football Academy for ten years but never came to proper coaching."
Though Sengupta declined coaching he didn't leave football as he joined "Ajkal's editorial team and managed their sports magazine 'Khela' " once again proving his versatility.
Apart from writing the late footballer was a very big fan of music. The former Indian international even had expertise in playing tabla and had performed a Sangat with famous singer Suchitra Mitra.
"We both were big fans of music. He was a very favorite player of Sachin Dev Barman and Rahul Dev Barman. Whenever I and Surajit used to play in Mumbai, we used to go to Pancham studio," said Ranjit Mukherjee
But this doesn't end Sengupta's versatility. He also plied his trades in the sphere of acting and drama. Sengupta acted in a play named 'Ebong Andhokar' and also starred in the Bengali film 'Raasta' directed by Bratya Basu in 2003.
However, Surajit Sengupta has always been a man of principles and refused any special opportunity that he thought he didn't deserve. While confirming this, Ranjit Mukherjee shared, "Surajit was a man of principles. In 1994, the then communist state government formed a group of coaches who were sent to cover the FIFA World Cup. Surajit was also included in that group. However, he refused to take the chance saying he wasn't a coach and shouldn't be eligible for this".