Former Indian midfielder Mehtab Hossain's autobiography, 'Midfield General' was launched at the Press Club, Kolkata on Monday. The event was attended by MMIC, Sports Debasish Kumar, East Bengal official Debabrata Sarkar, Mohun Bagan's finance secretary Debasish Dutta, AIFF senior vice-president Subrata Dutta, IFA secretary Joydeep Mukherjee, and Hossain's former teammates Alvito D'Cunha, Arnab Mondal and Abhra Mondal among others.
Like many footballers, Hossain's tale is one of the rags to riches. Co-written by Hossain and Shibam Das in Bengali, 'Midfield General' charts the subject's incredible journey from acute poverty to the highest echelons of Indian football.
"I used to work in a fluorescent tube factory for a daily wage of Rs 60 after my school hours. I had to support my family from a very young age, but I also practised football every evening. I hate to lose. That phase taught me to never give up", Hossain said at the event.
Every Indian footballer's dream is to play for either of the two Kolkata giants— Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. Hossain not only played for these two clubs but was one of the central characters in several Kolkata derbies. A chapter in the book is devoted specifically to his derby experiences.
Two such experiences that he describes at length therein are East Bengal's 3-5 loss to Mohun Bagan at the Salt Lake Stadium in 2009 and the Red and Golds' 2-0 victory over the Mariners in the Federation Cup semi-final in Guwahati that same year. Hossain played both games for East Bengal, for whom he made 91 appearances in total.
Owing to the two clubs' dubious tradition of hiring and firing coaches, Hossain has had the experience of playing under a host of different managers. He was also a regular feature in the Indian team between 2005 and 2015, where he played under Bob Houghton, Stephen Constantine and Wilhelmus Koevermans.
From Subhash Bhowmick to Philippe De Ridder, Trevor James Morgan to Sankarlal Chakroborty, Armando Colaco to Marcos Falopa, the book narrates Hossain's relationship with each of these people and how different their coaching styles were from one another.
Has Hossain chosen to sidestep the controversial aspects of his long professional career? Staying true to its genre, the autobiography explores his so-called bittersweet relationship with erstwhile East Bengal coach and teammate Bhowmick and Alvito D'Cunha respectively, as Hossain opens himself up like never before.
Published by Barta Prakashan, 'Midfield General' will be available at stall number 198 in the Kolkata Book Fair.