An inspiration to the youngsters

Published : Sep 15, 2001 00:00 IST


WHEN the National Football League was launched five seasons ago, the much-adored P.K. Banerjee, then Technical incharge of the East Bengal team believed that Indian footballers would benefit by mingling with foreign players. Some good talents, mostly from Africa had found their way to India and nearly all the teams in the NFL utilised their services. But no sooner did that happen than came the gradual dilution. The high standards pegged in the first edition could not be reached again and there was concern all round.

But it was different with McDowell Mohun Bagan, when it picked up Jose Barreto, the rich talent from Brazil, last season. Here was a player who breathed football, not surprising for one coming from the Mecca of soccer and suddenly began to earn rave notices. He is the sort who would sense a 'kill' and does not fight shy in finishing the job in a flash. It is that unpredictable striking nature that has made him a deadly player in India and admired by every football fan. Barreto may have regretted that his best could not help Mohun Bagan on top of the heap in the fifth NFL but there was no question he was the guiding light in the glamour team's 11th success in the Federation Cup competition.

Rarely does he miss a chance and equally rarely does a match end without his touch of class. In Chennai he provided the breakthrough with that splendid show of opportunism in the final which sent Dempo in a spin before Seriki ensured that the good job of the Brazilian did not go waste. Amidst the general mediocrity the 25-year-old Barreto can be a genius for his spectacular finishes, which have already become folklore in Indian football. Chennai had more than an eye-full of this man from Porto Alegre in Southern Brazil.

That he is enjoying his performance in India is clear from his decision to return to the country and continue with Mohun Bagan again. Also clear too is his religious devotion as a Protestant for each goal is followed by that set piece act of stripping his jersey to convey the message of Jesus written on his vest. There is so much that Indian strikers can learn from this compactly built player, whose turn of speed and acumen have to be seen to be believed.

As long as he serves in India, Barreto is bound to inspire any number of budding footballers. Already he has lent that touch of class and control to young men like Rennedy Singh, with whom he vibes so much on the field and James Singh, who impressed many at Chennai. As a professional, who left a Japanese club before heading for India, Barreto may not shy away from greener pastures. It is said that he has plans to make Portugal his next destination. One never knows what is in his his mind. After all he is a striker whose forte is unpredictability.

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