“There are not many journalism schools in India that offer sports journalism as the main subject. And, there is nothing on Indian football as well,” rued Novy Kapadia to the author. “There should be proper journalism courses on football. The youngsters should know more about our golden past. Unlike Europe, where there are proper courses in sports journalism, we don’t have such,” he added. That was way back in 2015, when I, like countless 23-year-olds was clueless, wet behind the ears, and remained undecided on what to do with my life. I had been in touch with Novy since 2009, and if I am not mistaken, those were my early days on Facebook. I used to message him on books related to football, and surprisingly, his responses were always prompt. “Start with Jonathan Wilson’s ‘Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics’, as a starter,” I recall him saying over a phone call. “You must get Simon Kuper’s ‘Football Against the Enemy’ as well. That’s a fantastic book,” he said.

When I got into one of the premier Journalism schools in India, I broke the news with him over a phone call. He was in New Delhi and I was in Kolkata. “That’s such amazing news. I am very happy that you decided to share this piece of news with me,” as I pen these words, I get goosebumps, unable to come to terms that Novy Kapadia is no longer with us.

Two years later, when I shifted to Uttar Pradesh, I met him in person for the second time. Novy Kapadia used to be a football expert with one of the reputed news channels and would often come to preview the football games. “Why don’t you come and meet me at around 9 PM when my show gets over?,” Novy asked one fine day and I readily obliged his request. How could I have said otherwise to a man who became “Novy Uncle” to me by then? I vividly remember, it was Friday, and as my shift got over at 9:15 PM, I took a cab and rushed to the office of the news organisation where he was supposed to be waiting for me after the show. As I reached that office lounge at 9:25 PM, fearing Novy had left already, there he was, patiently waiting for me to have a “discussion” with me on football. “I have requested the driver to wait for me for another 40 minutes or so. We can chat for some time before I call it a day,” he remarked. The words ring into my ears today and make me teary-eyed.

The next 40 minutes were filled with stories about the heydays of Indian football and Indian football only. Nothing came between. There were endless stories on legends like Sailen Manna, Chuni Goswami, Franco Fortunato, PK Banerjee, Peter Thangaraj and others. There were interesting tidbits on how Sheoo Mewalal was the first Asian footballer to master the “Rabona Kick” and how was the first Indian to score an international hat-trick for his country. “I have recently written a book. You may consider reading it and let me know your feedback,” such a self-effacing man he was, yet so scholarly, having covered nine FIFA World Cup tournaments. Yet, Novy Kapadia loved recollecting stories on cricket and tennis too.

The last time we spoke, Novy was completely inactive from social media platforms because of his failing health. We planned to meet again over lunch at Chittaranjan Park in New Delhi. “It should be a Bengali lunch. I can’t travel much these days and am in need of constant help. I absolutely love ‘Chingrir Malaikari’ (Coconut Prawn Curry) ‘Mishti Doi’ (Bengali Sweet Yoghurt).” Unfortunately, that never took place because of our conflicting schedules. The COVID-19 pandemic arrived soon after and we were completely out of touch. There is nothing in my life that could replace the regret of not having met him over lunch.

Novy Uncle, I thank you for everything! There were few of your kind and there will be fewer going forward. Your voice, words, and wisdom will remain immortal to me and everyone. Until we meet again on the other side, rest in power.