The Sporting Days!

I had no opportunity of having any formal introduction to organized games before I came to Dhaka. We used to indulge in indigenous games evolved by our elders when we were children. Those used to be confined within the courtyard of the East End club tent. It was not until my teens that I became interested in football or cricket. Football or what is more usually called soccer today, thanks to Americanization of the English language, meant kicking a round something and bringing it close to an opening agreed upon to be a goal post. The round or semi-round object for kicking needn't be a football. It could be anything. A Jambura, the Deshi grapefruit preferably unripe, could well be used as a football. The object we would be given to kick wouldn't deter our spirit. Soon we grew out of the Jambura and were given a used football to play with by our seniors at the East End club. This was one day in my life that I will never forget. We got the football on a Sunday morning. During those days Sundays, like anywhere else in the world, used to be considered the week end. I remember having kicked, carried and dribbled the football through the morning until it was well past mid-day when I remembered that I had to join the family for lunch. After lunch it was compulsory to take to bed. But today was quite another day. I tip toed out of the bed room when Maa was asleep and hit the ground again. My seriousness with the game was so profound that I played the game even in my dreams. Once it so happened that I dreamt I was right in front of the goal posts with the football with only the Goalkeeper at my mercy. I distinctly remember his begging eyes. As if he was trying to say 'please have mercy on me'. Well I did not care. There was the post with the lone custodian. So I took an aim and kicked the ball as hard as I could. What followed was hell. In my sleep I kicked the wall by the bed so hard that I nearly broke a couple of my to

All this assiduousness could not take me very far in football. I was born an eleven- pound baby and never looked back. In our childhood our parents did not believe in austere feeding of children. So, I grew big. The bulk intimidated with fast paced sports. I became more apt in sports that needed strength or not so much of running about. Cricket, therefore, became my favorite sports. In the annual sports at school level I excelled in Shot-put and Discuss throwing. But my heart went in for cricket from my teens. I started as a batsman and wicket keeper and opened the innings for the East End club which had a cricket team playing first division cricket. My senior partner as the opening batter was Syed Hasan Imam, subsequently the famous actor. Perhaps very few people know that Hasan Bhai who migrated from Calcutta in the fifties represented the West Bengal cricket team. The two of us exchange lot of pleasant cricketing memories even to this day whenever we meet socially. Despite my love for cricket, the game that people really adored was football for obvious reasons. Firstly, football was a less complicated game. Secondly, the longer version of cricket could not hold attention of the people for long, remember the T20s or 50 over matches were still not known. Thirdly, the game, then played only in clean white clothes must have created an awe in the minds of the ordinary people. Besides, the gadgets and gears of the game cost a fortune. But most of all, very few Bangalis excelled in cricket nationally. Whereas in football quite a few of them got invited to be included in the Pakistan team. So, patriotic factor, naturally, played an important factor in determining the popularity of the game. Our own East End club of Ganderia had quite a good football team then. It had a prominent position in the first division league table. On the afternoons of our game we used to line up at the club tent to be marched to the Dhaka stadium or the grounds around it to witness the game. It was a three kilometer walk that we gladly undertook. Our home grown players like Siraj Ahmed or Muhammad Idris made it to the East Pakistan team. And we were mighty proud of them. The famous Zakaria Pintu who later became the captain of the MuktiJoddha football team during our war of independence broke in to the Dhaka football circuit by playing in the East End Club. Dhaka Mohammedan Sporting club then was the most popular team followed by the Wanderers. But for us East End was the greatest. I distinctly remember that the top teams of Dhaka had already started importing players from the Makran cost of West Pakistan. Some good ones were Kala Gafur, Omar, Abid, Gafur Baluch and Hasan Killer. They created awe for us the children. But then seeing our own Siraj bhai dribbling past them gave us immense pleasure.

I was last active on the cricket ground while in the Dhaka University representing the department of Sociology and did fairly well. Much after that when fitness fad became a life style statement I started on relatively strenuous kind of physical activities. Brisk walking and running became a daily chore. This is the time when I rediscovered that bi-cycling could be a fun sport. Dhaka had not grown this outrageous in terms of traffic and I was able to ride the cycle from my home at Bailey road to the Sher-e-Bangla Nagar merrily. I think time has come to give a gaming pause now. I would fall back on my memory of the gaming days as and when it becomes pertinent while writing this memoir.