Kolkata: Legendary actor Dilip Kumar was an avid football lover, shared a deep connect with one of Kolkata’s big three legacy clubs, Mohammedan Sporting, and was a huge fan of the great Chuni Goswami.
From a treasure trove of anecdotes, two incidents stand out. Legend has it that when Goswami announced his international retirement in 1964 in Mumbai, two “special fans” requested him to change his decision.
The gentlemen in question were Dilip Kumar and Pran — two Bollywood icons who would not miss a match at the Cooperage if Goswami was playing.
Another story involved Kumar having a “run-in” with rival supporters during the final of an erstwhile premier tournament.
One of India’s enduring film legends, Kumar died at a Mumbai hospital on Wednesday after prolonged illness. He was 98.
Circa 1980. A familiar face during the Rovers Cup whenever Mohammedan Sporting played in the premier tournament, Kumar was invited as a chief guest for the 1980 final between his favourite club and East Bengal.
The Mohammedan Sporting captain of the match, Victor Amalraj, recalled how the Bollywood icon “got annoyed and was about to leave the stage before things were brought under control”.
“Back then, the Raaj Kumar-Rajesh Kumar film Maryada was a big hit. Some rival supporters started chanting Raaj Kumar’s name at the half-time that made Dilip Saab very annoyed,” recollected the former India skipper Amalraj while talking to PTI from Hyderabad.
“He stood up from the stage and told their supporters, ‘you should have called Raaj Kumar then, why did you invite me’. He became so annoyed but the situation was soo brought under control,” Amalraj said about the final in which they were declared joint-winners following a 1-1 stalemate.
The Indian football community remembers him as someone who took an active interest in the game, often watching the matches from the stands.
Amalraj continued, “I cannot forget that day. He was a very simple human being and we were so lucky to have seen him, photographed with him in person.”
“He was a big sports lover and followed all the Mumbai nd oan lubs and would be present whenever Mohammedan Sporting played in Kolkata or in Mumbai,” Amalraj, who was accorded the 2019 Shan-e-Mohammedan, the club’s Lifetime Achievement Award, said.
Former India Defender Subrata Bhattacharya, who was also a part of the Indian side that played in the 1984 AFC Asian Cup, was “fortunate” to have a few meetings with the legend of hindi cinema.
“Dilip Kumar was extremely passionate about football. On the field, when he’d come to a game as a chief guest, you don’t get to talk much. But I had met him a few times off the field as well, and he used to love to discuss the game with us,” informed Bhattacharya.
“I remember he used to be a frequent visitor in the Rovers Cup games. He had also come to the Santosh Trophy Final in Kashmir (1978-79).”
Off the pitch, Bhattacharya had met Kumar a few times in different studio sets, and the former defender recalled how the star had shown his hospitality.
“I went to meet him a few times when I was in Bombay, at the Himalaya and the Nataraj Studios. The first time I went there, he came over to me and bellowed in an affectionate manner ‘Aise khada kyun hain’? (Why are you standing there).
“He took me to the director and introduced me, ‘Bada player hai, India ke liye khelta hai. Isse baithne do’ (He’s a big player, plays for India. Let’s find him a place to sit).”
“He truly was one of those people who was pure at heart. There was no malice in the man. And he was a very good actor too. This is a huge loss for India,” Bhattacharya was quoted saying by the All India Football Federation.
Subhash Bhowmick, who was a member of the Indian bronze medal-winning squad in the 1970 Asian Games, has himself been an avid fan of Kumar films. Mughal-e-Azam (1960) and Ganga Jamuna (1961) were two of many Kumar classics that had captivated Bhowmick.
“It was an honour to see such a great superstar come to watch our matches. Not only the club matches, but he was also an avid follower of the national team,” he recalled.
“This is a huge loss for the world of art and culture. He was one of the first true superheroes of Indian cinema,” said Bhowmick.
Former Blue Tigers captain Prasanta Banerjee, who had also represented India in the 1984 AFC Asian Cup recalled Kumar as someone who loved the beautiful game “with all his heart”.
“I had first met him in the Rovers Cup in Bombay, when he was the chief guest in the 1980 final (East Bengal versus Mohammedan Sporting). Later, when I was playing for Mohammedan Sporting, he had visited the club a few times as well and we had several chats,? Banerjee informed.
“When I got to chat with him, I understood his love for football. He knew me by my name. For me that was a big honour — he was such a legend.”
“He loved watching football with all his heart, and had come to watch a number of matches from the stands,” he said, paying rich tribute to the departed Bollywood icon.