This year’s Mohun Bagan Ratna recipient, Samar Banerjee, donned the Green and Maroon jersey from 1952-59. Popularly known as “Badru-da”, he joined team Mohun Bagan in 1952 during IFA Shield and the team became IFA Shield champion. In 1953, Mohun Bagan won Durand Cup for the first time, as Badru-da scored both in the semi final and final. In the year 1954, Mohun Bagan won first double (winning IFA Shield and Kolkata League) and Badru-da played an important role in winning these tourneys. In 1955, Mariners won Rovers cup for the first time and again Badru-da was there creating panic in opponent defense and scoring for Green-and-Maroon brigade.
In 1956, Mohun Bagan won double for 2nd time winning Kolkata league and IFA shield in same season. Badru Banerjee was the second highest goal scorer after Keshto Pal, another Mohunbagani. Badru-da became captain of the Indian Football team that participated in the Melbourne Olympics. India reached semi finals and eventually finished fourth. In 1958 he became Captain of the Mohun Bagan football team.
Mohunbaganclub.com met Badru Banerjee at his residence recently.
"Congrats Badru da on becoming Mohun Bagan Ratna"
Badru-da: Thank you, I am very happy for getting nominated for this award.
"Few days back there was a controversy, few ex-players held a press conference and questions were raised on selection of Mohun Bagan Ratna, what is your opinion regarding this?"
Badru-da: Firstly, regarding Mohun Bagan Ratna, I think if officials follow a certain rule, then there will be no controversy eg. Say first preference will be given to players who are ex-Olympian, then ex-captain etc. I am just trying to say if they follow certain rules while selecting this prestigious award, then they will not face any problem, otherwise there will be many deserving candidates every year. Regarding Barreto, I feel he should get the award after he retires.
"Barreto does not deserve this award?"
Badru-da: No, I am not saying that. He is a great player. One of the best players I have seen and I think he is among the best foreign players ever to have played not only in Mohun Bagan but also in India. He has tremendous sense of the game, very skillful, yet prolific scorer and very dedicated, but I feel if he is given Mohun Bagan Ratna now, it will put more pressure on him as after that if in any match he misses any goal or does not perform well, supporters will say "Whom did you give Mohun Bagan Ratna?" I think it is best to give this award to a person after he retires. Barreto, I think, is Platini of Mohun Bagan. He has performed so well over the years.
Regarding ex-players, I feel they should sit with officials and resolve the issue. I feel, barring 2-3, many ex-players of our time did not get recognition that they deserve. I was not that popular as I had the courage to call a spade a spade and not yes man like few who got all the recognition.
"Do you feel ex-players should be there in executive committee?"
Badru-da: Yes, not many but if possible may be 15-20% can be ex players. Presence of technical person definitely will help the committee to function better. Since they have playing experience, they understand the pulse of the player better. In our time, there were quite a few ex-players in executive committee and not only players, there were also eminent persons from different field present. After retiring, I also served Mohun Bagan by being associated with the football team.
"Mohun Bagan won first double during your playing days?"
Badru-da: Yes, in 1952 I came to Mohun Bagan from BNR. I had started my football career in Bali Pratibha. Bali Pratibha created some issues , that’s why I had to join BNR, otherwise I would have donned Mohun Bagan jersey an year before.
In 1952 IFA Shield, we became joint winners with Rajasthan, first match score was 2-2 and second match ended goalless. In 1953, Mohun Bagan won the Durand Cup for the first time. I scored both in Semi Final and the Final match. In 1954, it was 1st time Double for Mohun Bagan (Winner of both Calcutta Football League & IFA Shield in the same season). We beat Hyderabad Police in the final match of IFA Shield by 1-0, I scored the only goal of the match. In 1955, we won Rovers Cup for the first time. 1956 was the most memorable year of my life, Mohun Bagan won 2nd time Double. I was the second highest goal scorer for Mohun Bagan after Keshto Pal. That year I became Captain of the Indian Football Team, which played in the Olympics at Melbourne. India became the first Asian country to reach the semi-final stage of the Olympic Football tournament ever. In 1958, I became captain of Mohun Bagan, but unfortunately we finished runners up in three tournaments. In IFA Shield that year, first final between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal ended 1-1, I scored the goal for Mohun Bagan. However, in 2nd final we lost 1-0.
"Did you play for Bengal?"
Badru-da: Yes, I also represented Bengal in Santosh Trophy from 1952-1956. I became Captain in 1956. Bengal won Santosh Trophy in 1953 and 1955. In 1961, Bengal won Santosh Trophy under my coaching.
"Why you did not coach any big team like Mohun Bagan?"
Badru-da: I did not get chance, may be because I was not an "yes man" and protested when I saw anything wrong. I coached for Barisha and Bengal. Under my coaching, Bengal won Santosh Trophy but still did not get any offer from big clubs.
I later became a selector. I am proud that I selected Manas, Bidesh.
"Will you share your experience of 1956 Olympics?"
Badru-da: I was selected as the Captain, I was very excited. Bidhan Roy congratulated me. That performance of India still is the best so far in Olympics. In quarter finals, we beat Australia 4-2, in semi finals we faced a very strong Yugoslavian team. After goalless first half, we scored the first goal but could not resist in last half an hour and conceded 4 goals, final score reading 1-4. In bronze medal match, we lost 0-3 to Bulgaria.
In November 22, 1956,the news of Indian team came in the famous newspaper The Tribune of Melbourne.
"Recently you were felicitated by AIFF."
Badru-da: Yes, after so many years Sports Minister of India Dr. M. S. Gill felicitated the surviving member of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics team to honour us for our achievement, better late than never.
Unfortunately, I still have not got Padma Shree, I don’t know how can players who are still playing get Padma Shree when there are so many deserving ex-players.
During the felicitation, I said, “We have been depressed. We didn’t get any recognition for what we have done. I am lucky to get the recognition now but feel sorry for my teammates, who couldn’t get it. I wish they were with me today. We had six forwards in that team. It was an attacking team and it was Rahim Saheb, who inspired us to play well. His critics used to call him a slave driver, but for us he was the best coach we ever had.”
"Do you feel Rahib Saheb is the best coach India have ever produced?"
Badru-da: Definitely, he is one of the best coaches. He was very strict regarding discipline and a very good tactician. We enjoyed playing under him. He was very sincere with his coaching. He produced many good players for India. Every body was so dedicated and disciplined.
"Do you feel football has slowed down? In your time there used to be attacking football with 2-3-5 formation."
Badru-da: Absolutely correct. In our time football was much more fast. Nowadays players lack stamina and speed, may be that is why football has slowed down. I always feel "Best Attack is best defence." If we continuously put pressure on opponent, they will not have chance to attack more. Though I was in forward, I also had to come down to help defence, it was like playing from box to box. Always there were not more than 10-15 yards gap between midfielders and forwards, this requires players to have lot more stamina which we had. In our time, there was no substitution. We gave all our effort while playing, not thinking about whether I will be injured or not. Nowadays, I see players wasting time, falling down so easily, going out on stretcher and again standing and coming inside ground, this all is negative football, this was not there during our time. Also now players say "I am injured" and does not play many match, we did not do these kind of things.
Also we performed well as we did not want to lose our position in the team. We knew many players are ready to take our place. Even if we are injured, we used to play the match. By scoring the goal and helping team win the match and then getting praise and cheer from supporters and press gave me a big satisfaction. (Laughing) I knew if I can score the winning goal, then my photo will come in next day’s newspaper.
I have seen in recent times, big teams like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal fail against speedy teams which have more junior players. This should be taken care of to improve standard of game.
"What is the reason? Lack of good footballers, lack of good coach or lack of good administration?"
Badru-da: All are to be blamed for this. I feel depressed the way AIFF functions, still they are so amateurish in their activities. AIFF President, Secretary are doing their job by sitting in AC rooms, how often do they visit the ground? The infrastructure is very poor here.
Even I feel not all coaches are doing their job well. Training method is not up-to-date with international standards. They do more exercise without ball and less with ball, so ball control is very poor among players, a player should first line how to cushion the ball, that is the basic necessity to be a good footballer. There should also be more emphasis on short sprinting during the practice which helps a player to turn around quickly during the match and chase the ball, when it has been snatched by opponent. Also footballers should have good reflex and most importantly the will to play better.
"Do you feel media also is a factor?"
Badru-da: Media can make and also destroy. Nowadays, media always support players whether they are playing well or not. I did not get favour of the media, I could have played for few more years, but under-performance in few matches resulted in critics writing against me and this shortened my football career. Today, media is very soft towards footballers and always protects them and takes their side even in cases where players are found guilty.
"Any other reason for your short football career?"
Badru-da: In 1958, I got job in Burma Shell, posted in Siliguri. I used to come by flight to Kolkata and do practice but could not continue this for long time. Also I never used to butter to the officials while few of the co-players used to do.
You can see that only 2-3 players of our time got so much recognition and became managers and coach many times, but AIFF could not find any more suitable manager or coach and did not give chance to many other deserving ex players.
"What qualities are required to be a good striker?"
Badru-da: A player must have good ball control, good position sense and scoring ability to succeed as a striker. When a player is running and crossing the ball, the job of the person who is receiving the cross is much tougher than the one who is delivering the cross. If the striker does not position himself nicely according to the cross, he will not be able to meet the ball and score goal. Sometimes, I used to stand in wrong position in box to give false impression to stopper, but when the ball is coming in box, I used to quickly go towards the ball ahead of the stopper to make an attempt to score.
Also to be a good defender, you should have good anticipation and have to cover the player nicely during set piece. Last year, in the derby match, Nabi scored two goals from corner without any defender marking him, where was the defence? It gave me lot of pain.
"So you are a Mohun Bagan supporter?"
"But just now you said, you became depressed when Mohun Bagan conceded the goals?"
Badru-da: I am not a supporter, I am a "Mohun Bagani" by birth, my heart is always with Mohun Bagan.
"Why did you then cancel your membership card?"
Badru-da: It was due to the gotup match in All Airlines Gold cup between Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting. I was very shocked and canceled my card. But then after Mohun Bagan won National league under Chattuni, during the celebration, President Tutu Bose requested me and that is why I agreed to become member of Mohun Bagan again after so many years.
"Who was your best partner in field?"
Badru-da: It was Keshto Pal. Keshto was a very good header and he used to disturb the goalkeeper a lot, many times due to his disturbance, I got ball in open and scored goals.
"We heard you were a student of medicine"
Badru-da: Yes. I was studying in RG Kar Medical college but after 3rd year I could not concentrate on my studies due to my football career. While in college, I became All India Captain, Bidhan Ray came and congratulated me. I couldn’t practice medicine.
"You were one of the rarest footballers who has experienced the transformation from bare footed football to playing with boots. What is your feeling about this unique transformation?"
Badru-da: I had habit of playing with boot from my childhood. Without boot, a player can run fast but faced problem with team whose players were with boot. Basically, if a player has talent, he will have no problem whether playing with boot or without it. In an 1956 Olympic match, during the match, I removed my boots and went to ground barefooted.
"Whom do you treat as toughest opponent? Hyderabad Police or East Bengal?"
Badru-da: Definitely Hyderabad Police, then Mohammedan and after that comes East Bengal, though it was always a pleasure to score against East Bengal. Jyotish babu knew Badru will score and so instructed his player to hit me. Their goalkeeper was Dasgupta, a good goalkeeper, I scored couple of goals, I got such a satisfaction. Not only East Bengal, scoring goals used to give me such happiness, I cannot express by words. Thinking of those days, brings tears to my eyes.
"Which goal and which win would you rate as your best?"
Badru-da: Scoring the goal against Hyderabad Police in IFA Shield final is one of the most important goals of my career. That year in semi final, I scored against East Bengal, their famous goalkeeper was Sanjib who was crawling in the ground and could not stop me from scoring.
Among best wins, there are many, but winning Durand Cup in 1956, we won the final 4-0, was very special. After the match, the supporters rallied and took use to Delhi Kalibari. I was behind all the four goals scored in the match.
"Which striker, with whom you did not play in Mohun Bagan, you missed the most?"
Badru-da: I feel I could have made good combination with Mewalal. He used to release the ball very nicely. In my team, a so called icon, was very selfish and did not always passed the ball, he used to do a lot of gallery show.
"We have heard that in one of the matches against East Bengal, the referee by mistake have given a goal against Mohun Bagan, which has been directly kicked from an indirect free kick."
Badru-da: True, East Bengal scored from an indirect free kick when their striker shot directly into goal. I protested and referee admitted his mistake and requested to continue the game and did not cancel the goal. Our captain, Manna-Da asked me to give it up and later in the match I scored the equalizing goal. I was not afraid to protest and was not afraid of anyone.
"Which defender you feel was tough to beat?"
Badru-da: Mona Ghosh of George was very tough and used to kick us a lot. Refereeing was not strict at that time like nowdays. Even Pele was not spared, remember World Cup 1966 where Pele was hit so badly by opponents.
"Would you like to comment on the Baichung issue?"
Badru-da: He is definitely a very good striker, has very good position sense due to which he has scored so many goals and playing successfully for many years. But definitely he should not have gone to dance show during I league, that was an extremely bad decision on his part. Even I feel Mohun Bagan should not have allowed him to go on the first day itself.
Thanks a lot Badru da. We had a wonderful time interacting with a stalwart like you.
Badru-da: Welcome. I also had a good time talking to you my boys.
INTERVIEW: Kaushik Chaterjee, Shiladitya Mitra and Tridip Sheet.
REPORT: Shiladitya Mitra, Kaushik Chatterjee, Arindam Das and Subir Mukherjee