Dakshineshwar in West Bengal is popular for the Kali temple and its association with 19th century mystic Ramakrishna. The Hooghly river separates the religious hamlet from the hubbub of Kolkata. But minuscule droplets of madness trickled down to the Ghosh household in Ariadaha.

They are football devotees like most Bengalis but strictly German. The return of Bundesliga amid the coronavirus pandemic couldn’t make Arup Ghosh happier. His loyalty for Bayern Munich for over 50 years is one striking trait as fandom in the region is mostly confined to Latin America, mainly Argentina and Brazil.

At the stroke of lockdown in March, Ghosh received an official Bayern jersey and a video message from the legendary Lothar Matthäus. The video, released by Bundesliga Official on their social media handles, turned him into a Facebook star.

Sportstar reached out to Ghosh to understand how it feels to support a football club for over five decades sitting 7,000 kilometres apart.

“I was born in 1954. India was a real international team in the 1960s. It won the Asiad and before that (in 1956) it had reached the semifinal of Melbourne Olympics. My father was a huge fan of football and Germany. He was not too fond of teams from Latin America. I inherited the love for football from him. After World War II in 1945, Germany was completely destroyed but they fought back and won the World Cup in 1954. This story touched my father and our entire family became fans,” says Ghosh.

The fandom reached the peak in the early 1970s. “Thanks to magazines like Sportsweek and Sportstar , journalists such as Shantipriyo Bandyopadhyay and Moti Nandi, we could read about the international sports scenario. The star players, Franz Beckenbauer and Gerhard Müller, became heroes in 1974 after winning the second World Cup. Beckenbauer was called Kaiser.”

Call from fan club

Ghosh is still surprised how Bundesliga chose him as one fan among millions to gift a jersey. “I would pen down my thoughts on football on fan groups on Facebook and WhatsApp. I would usually comment on games from the 1970s when people would engage in a discussion. That interested a lot of people. So one day, I received a call from the fan club and eventually, a team from Bundesliga landed here and gave me the jersey. My name was perhaps spread by word-of-mouth. They were surprised to know when I told them that I actually stay up late to watch games,” he adds.

The global shutdown in the world of sport hurt Ghosh deep. He is relieved that Bundesliga is back. “Football is an addiction. Football is not only a game. It is also about planning. Most of the plans are off the ball. Nobody knows when a player like Thomas Muller will be on the hunt, he is always stationed at the right spot. He is a great assist. It feels amazing to observe how a team plans their game,” says Ghosh, who has worked with the Indian Air Force and the Life Insurance Corporation of India. He retired as an employee with LIC.

Ghosh is also an ardent fan of Mohun Bagan among Indian football clubs.

He is retired, has time but not the resources to attend a Bayern match in Germany. “I had such dreams when I was young. Football has kept me alive. I don’t have a passport, so going abroad is out of question. When I was working in defence, there were lots of restrictions, so I never really tried. I feel watching the game on television is comfortable and I can analyse it better,” Ghosh concludes.