Our member, Mr M. K. Bhattacharya, born in 1936, had a colourful childhood, as the son of the Station Master at the Dhanbad Railway Station. It was in Dhanbad where he spent his school days and where he got initiated into soccer. Early in life he took to football and soon formed a team with his friends. It took part in many tournaments organized in the coalfields and acquired quite a reputation.
Mr Bhattacharya was the specialist goalkeeper and sports must have helped him in many ways. From Dhanbad, he came to Calcutta, as it then was, to study at the Jadavpur Engineering College. Getting into Jadavpur was quite an ordeal; one that he got through thanks to his goal-keeping skills.
He was called for an interview by the admission board of the Jadavpur Engineering College. The famous educationist, Dr Triguna Sen, then the vice-chancellor, was on the board. When asked about his extracurricular activities, Mr Bhattacharya talked about his goal-keeping skills in football.
The quick witted and erudite vice chancellor asked: “Since you are a goalkeeper and have come for studying engineering, tell us the dimension of a football goal post.” Mr Bhattacharya had to confess that he did not know the answer. Would he or would he not get in, when he did not know the dimensions of the post that he was supposed to guard?
The vice-chancellor was a sport though. He did not let the failure to answer the question come in the way of his admission.
Upon graduating, Mr Bhattacharya joined Bata, the famous shoe company. Once again, his footballing background helped him get into the company that had an excellent football team. Our member had the opportunity to play an exhibition match against the Indian football team of the 60s. Prior to the team’s departure for a trip to the far-east, a practice match had been lined up with the Bata football team.
Our member defended the goal against, arguably, the best Indian football team till date. The team consisted of stars like Peter Thangaraj in the goal, Jarnail Singh in the defence and Chuni-PK-Balaram, the trinity of Indian football in the offence. He still cherishes the memory of that match. The Indian team won by three goals as expected but our member played extraordinarily, saving many goals and his team from drubbing.
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