Stands out for various reasons

IT is the first of its kind — a book on football in India.

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

The author talks highly of I. M. Vijayan (right) and Bhaichung Bhutia, the two superstars of recent times. — Pic. V. SREENIVASA MURTHY-

Stories from Indian Football — by Jaydeep Basu. UBS Publishers & Distributors Pvt. Ltd.

IT is the first of its kind — a book on football in India. The effort stands out for various reasons and nothing is ore engaging than the subject. Stories From Indian Football is a splendid work of dedication by sports scribe Jaydeep Basu.

The book, his first, is Basu's tribute to the progress of the game. He has lived football and it reflects in his simple style of narration. Full of anecdotes, the book makes compelling reading for the simple reason that it has so much to offer.

The feature of the book is that it lacks bias. Basu has carefully avoided taking sides and concentrated on highlighting facts. As he says in the preface, the book is not a chronological history of the game in the country, but only an attempt to trace the route the sport followed in India. "It mainly records the ups and downs of India's national team since Independence."

Basu points out that though Indian football could never reach the top, it does have a rich history and enjoyed its moments of triumph and sorrow at the international level.

Having written on the game for almost 20 years, Basu was best qualified among the current lot to deal with such a demanding subject. His experience obviously guided him in his pursuit as he collected information from a galaxy of former stars to bring to us rare stuff on the game. His research forms a sound base for the book as it discusses relevant issues.

In 13 chapters, Basu throws light on various aspects of the game, beginning his journey by tracing the epic IFA Shield final in 1911 between Mohun Bagan, a team of 11 bare-footed natives as Basu refers to them, and East Yorkshire Regiment. Bagan's triumph made history, and the win, as Basu rightly assesses, "dawned a new era in Indian football." The chapter is aptly titled `Immortal Eleven.'

The chapter, `First Exposure', deals with India's early experience in international football as barefoot players adjusted to shoes. We are given a brilliant account of India's rise, beginning with the semi-final slot in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. "It was the beginning of Indian football's golden era," writes Basu, who also dedicates a chapter to the gold medal victory in the 1962 Asian Games at Jakarta.

In Basu's own submission, the chapter, `Rahim Sahib', is his favourite. It is a football fan's ultimate tribute to a great guru and also acknowledged as the `architect of modern Indian football.' The book then discusses the decline of Indian football though Basu tries to liven up the spirits by talking highly of I. M. Vijayan and Bhaichung Bhutia, the two superstars of recent times. There is also a chapter focussing on the so-called professionalism in Indian football. But the most gripping chapter, `Great Footballers', is slotted at the end. Basu is at his best here, as he narrates Jarnail Singh's escape from Lyalpur (now Faisalabad) to Phagwara with bloodshed around as a result of partition. Basu discusses various footballers and concludes with the honest remark that "It is an impossible task to make a choice of great Indian footballers without raising a heated debate. It only shows there was never a dearth of talent in India."

Basu signs off with a plea that proper planning is needed to improve the football affairs. "Many more Jarnails and Vijayans are waiting," he writes. Aptly, the book ends on a note of hope with the last chapter providing rare, and vital statistics.

Basu's maiden venture, published by UBS Publishers & Distributors Pvt. Ltd, is indeed worth a buy for everyone who loves Indian football.