Indian Football: Balai Dey, the Mohun Bagan legend who performed for each India and Pakistan


Editor’s be aware: This is the fifth in a sequence of articles on the Indian soccer nationwide group in connection to [email protected] The author has lined varied facets of the sport, from captains to coaches, throughout the interval between 1948-2022.


Balai Dey was solely 10 months outdated when Jawaharlal Nehru famously introduced that India had made a tryst with future lengthy years in the past and the time had come to redeem the pledge. His household had been then dwelling in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

Dey, now 76, can’t recall how his household spent the day on August 14, 1947, as residents of the opposite new-born nation, Pakistan. But he does bear in mind how he grew up in Khulna and Dhaka and went on to grow to be one of many prime footballers of the nation.

Then, in 1965, his household moved to India. As a consequence, Dey achieved one thing which is really distinctive: he’s the one dwelling footballer within the subcontinent who has represented each India and Pakistan in worldwide soccer.

Before him, the site visitors had gone the opposite approach: Taj Mohammed who represented India within the 1948 Olympics and A Latif who turned out for the 1960 video games went on emigrate to Pakistan and characterize the nationwide group on the opposite facet of the border.

A singular swap

Dey, who now lives in Liluah close to Kolkata, recounted his story in a latest interview to Scroll.in. As a goalkeeper, he was discovered to be so gifted that he was inducted within the Pakistan nationwide group even earlier than he acquired his college leaving certificates. He was despatched for the tour of China and as Dey did an exquisite job beneath the bar, he was picked up once more when a powerful Soviet Union facet visited Pakistan to play matches in Karachi, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Dhaka and different main cities. By the time Dey was 18, he was certainly one of Pakistan’s main footballers and a invaluable member of the mighty Dhaka Mohammedan Sporting.

“But things changed dramatically after this,” recalled Dey in his light and amiable voice. “Half of my family was already living in India. In January 1965, I crossed over to India through Petrapole border and life changed thereafter. We decided to stay in India and never again returned to Dhaka or Khulna except for occasional visits.”

While shifting to India after elders in his household determined to, Dey was afraid his profession as a footballer would come to an finish. On the opposite, it solely flourished after he settled in Kolkata. Offers got here pouring from the town’s prime golf equipment and Dey had the excellence of donning the jersey of each East Bengal and Mohun Bagan.

It didn’t finish there. In the 1969-’70 season, Dey was in such dazzling type that he was inducted within the Indian group for the Merdeka match. Then coach, Jarnail Singh, was so impressed with him that Dey was his first selection goalkeeper in all of the matches.

In Malaysia with the Indian group for Merdeka match. Standing prime on the proper. (Photo by way of Jaydeep Basu)

“I am thankful to God for what I received in life,” Dey stated. “I did come over to India, but at the back of the mind I had felt I let down Pakistan, especially my motherland, which is now Bangladesh. But once Bangladesh was born, something happened that left me immensely satisfied.”

“In 1972, I was in East Bengal and went to play exhibition matches in Bangladesh. Luckily, I knew Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman from my childhood days because of my family connections. When the East Bengal team paid a visit to the great man, he told me that initially people were upset that I left Pakistan to move to India. But everybody was happy after I achieved so much in India. ‘We are now proud of you,’ he said. I couldn’t control my tears when Bangabandhu said these words.”

Monu Bagan legend

Having retired from a PSU, Dey now has a contended life together with his kids well-settled. But issues didn’t look too rosy when he crossed over from Pakistan in 1965.

“I had no job then. The South Eastern Railways, which had a star-studded side called BNR, contacted me and offered me a job if I agreed to play for them. I was ready for it, but they never could manage my international transfer clearance. I was completely stranded. As I was getting totally frustrated, Jyotish Guha, then the top official of East Bengal, contacted me.

“Mr Guha said he was not in a position to offer me a job, but he would get my international clearance done if I played for East Bengal. I agreed and joined East Bengal. He was a great man, he even got my brother a job,” stated Dey.

But Balai Dey’s greatest seasons had been for Mohun Bagan, one thing he admits on a regular basis. “My best year was 1969. I was in Mohun Bagan and won the ‘double’ in Kolkata – the league and the IFA Shield. In the Shield final, we beat East Bengal 3-1 and my goalkeeping earned lots of praise. I was called for national duty then,” he stated proudly.

Dey was in nice demand on the circuit. During the nationwide camp in Mumbai, he needed to rush to Nowgong, Assam (now Nagaon) in a number of hours’ discover after receiving an SOS from the Bengal group administration. “I was in the camp, but was told to go to Nowgong immediately as Bengal needed me badly for the Santosh Trophy. I took a flight, reached Assam and played. In the final, we defeated Services 6-1,” he recalled.

Asked how he spent the Independence Day throughout his enjoying days, Dey stated he had comparable experiences in each Pakistan and India. “When I was in Dhaka, I used to take part in Independence Day tournaments on August 14. When I crossed over, my routine remained the same – to play in tournaments organised to celebrate Independence Day, of course on August 15,” he stated.

When in Dhaka, Dey used to play for Dhaka Mohammedan Sporting, one of many best sides in then East Pakistan. It offered him the chance to rub shoulders with one of the best in Pakistan. According to Dey, Pakistan, throughout his time, had some fantastic footballers, who had been admired even in locations like China and Russia.

“In the Pakistan national team, we had players like midfielder Gafoor and defender Turab Ali, who were exceptionally talented. Pity the current generation is not aware of them. When I came over to India, I was most impressed by players like Chuni Goswami and Syed Nayeemuddin. I haven’t seen another skillful player like Chuni-da,” stated Dey.

Now, trying again at his profession, Dey stated he has no remorse.

“Whether in Pakistan or India, I received all the support I needed as a footballer. I was just out of school when I got selected for the Pakistan national team. The team’s permanent goalkeeper was Latif, then an established name in Pakistan football. But he always encouraged me and I got into the starting eleven quite regularly,” stated Dey.

“After coming to India, when I joined East Bengal, their first-choice goalkeeper was Peter Thangaraj. Naturally, I didn’t receive too many opportunities to play. So, I shifted to Mohun Bagan and became a star there. Till today, everyone in Mohun Bagan respects me, recently they conferred me with the Lifetime Achievement award. How many sportspersons in this country can boast of playing for two nations? Everyday I thank God for giving me so much. He has given me more than I deserve.”

Balai Dey now, with the Lifetime Achievement award from Mohun Bagan |Photo by way of Jaydeep Basu



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