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Fame, fortune and the fall: The life of an Indian footballer

Mehtab Hussain (r) made a comeback to football after a bout with alcoholism

Mehtab Hussain (Number 14) made a comeback to football after a bout with alcoholism

I knew one Abid Hussain from my locality in Calcutta. He was short-built but possessed a muscular physique. Also, Hussain, then a 17-year-old, showed glimpses of his football talent in the area during the weekend ‘nukkad’ futsal games.

Hussain’s father ran a small grocery shop near my home. It was through him that I got to know this young footballer, who later donned Eastern Railways and Mohammedan Sporting in the early 90s. He was a good striker and often scored in crucial games for Sporting, where he became a darling of the crowd.

Before I left for Delhi in 1996, Hussain told me that he had got a job in the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC). And I wished him more luck and success.

But that was it.

A couple of years later when I visited Calcutta, I found out that Hussain had completely faded into oblivion. Even his father doesn’t know much of his whereabouts. I was told that he got married and settled down somewhere in Calcutta and left the game too early. Hussain’s case is a study in point that without the services of professional management experts, a footballer’s career may go haywire.

After finding fame, they thrust into relative plenty after enduring years of poverty. Since they don’t get proper advice, they fall victim to profligate lifestyles.

In fact, these improper lifestyle choices have laid low many promising young Bengali players. Apart from Hussain, East Bengal’s Shashti Duley and Abhijit Roy Choudhury, who represented all the Big Three, was allegedly linked to the underworld.

Even the talented and baby-faced former India defender Falguni Dutta, who played for East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting, sacrificed his career because of alcoholism.

If we scan the football clubs in Calcutta, chances are that we will get to hear or see a lot more of these incidents, which were made bigger by the same media who once made these footballers heroes.

But I’m sure that India’s other football centres are also infested with such incidents where an upcoming player had to quit the game probably after he got too frustrated in his career and then came under the influence of alcohol.

Born in poverty-stricken families, most budding footballers lack basic education. That seems to be the core of such problems. When they become ‘famous’, they don’t care about their future. They love to spend big money on themselves and on their friends.

I think these are social issues which can only be addressed by the players’ management companies. But even today, some of the well-known players are not to keen to hire the services of such professionals because they feel it’s a waste of money. Since they lack the basic education, they remain in the dark about the positives of the services of these management companies.

There is also another glitch. Since none of the clubs are professionally managed, a lot of these players usually fall prey to materialistic attractions. Also, the clubs, which are often managed by a number of non-technical people, aren’t really serious when it comes to imposing any kind of strict professional discipline.

I won’t name one or two East Bengal players from the current batch who were involved in some alleged criminal cases. These things can only be avoided if they are told that their performance is the yardstick to success.

Baichung Bhutia or Ramirez Barretto were some of the finest players in Indian football because of their disciplined lifestyle. They were professionals who never indulged in the glitzy lifestyles, and were always present for their club’s training sessions the next morning.

Baichung Bhutia is known for his disciplined lifestyle

Baichung Bhutia is known for his disciplined lifestyle

Most of these footballers are not aware of the marketing viabilities. For example, Syed Rahim Nabi, who is also known to be a disciplined player, has never understood the relevance of players’ management. He doesn’t know where to spend his earnings. At the other end, Mehtab Hussain, another promising player, almost quit football a couple of years ago after his alleged alcoholism but returned back to the field. He thanked East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan many times for ‘motivating’ him. Hussain was lucky that the Englishman understood his potential and hence he got a fresh lease of life as a footballer.

Unfortunately, there are many similar unknown footballers that get caught in the vicious circle of fame, fortune and the eventual fall.

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