Once a tall, well-built goalkeeper, Bhaskar Ganguly was rightly called the king of the penalty box by scribes impressed by keeping prowess. The captain of the 1982 Asian Games squad, now 58, works in the Ultadanga branch of State Bank of India in east Kolkata. In his heydays Ganguly was the most sought after goalkeeper. He represented top clubs like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan.
Ganguly, who is in capital city as a selector in the Subroto Cup , told The Sunday Guardian that he was not very keen on talking about his football, but the current state of Indian football. “Don’t ask me about our times. Things were so different. We didn’t have any resources. We had this undying passion to represent the country. I wouldn’t say we played excellent football, but we managed to beat the likes of Nepal,” he said.
He said although there is no dearth of raw talent in our country, a mechanism for nurturing talent was not in place. “You just saw how well some of the players played today( talking about a Subroto Cup tie). You must catch them young and groom them for the national team,” he said.
Ganguly said he not satisfied with AIFF’s ( All India Football Federation) scouting process. Although AIFF sends a selector to the games, Ganguly said the names recommended by the selector are not considered. “Last year, we found some exceptional talent and, to the best of my knowledge, the AIFF selector had recommended those names, but no one knows where these players are now,” said Ganguly.
Ganguly is credited for spotting India’s most well-known footballer Baichung Bhutia, during the 1992 Subroto Cup. “I met Bichung and asked him to move to Kolkata to play in local leagues there. During his playing days people chanted his name whenever he entered the football ground, but if he had not been spotted and trained at the right time, we would have lost the country’s most iconic footballer,” he said
‘Not impressed with national squad’
Ganguly is upset with the way the national team has performed in the FIFA qualifiers so far. India have not won any of their games in the qualifiers, with most recent 3-0 loss coming against Asian champions Iran. “We can’t even beat teams like Nepal (not part of India’s draw); now how do you explain that? Forget qualifying for the World Cup any soon. We have many miles to go before we do that.”
Ganguly, despite having had an illustrious football career has not received any recognition from the government. “What can I do? I never went after officials asking them to give me an award. It’s something I cannot do,” Ganguly said with no hint of regret in his voice.