Anilava Chatterjee: I firmly believe, the famous aggression of the East Bengal got a serious blow when Swapan Bal became old (I’m sure, had he been alive, he would have been furious after reading this and would have told me, you come to the ground and I will show you the rest). But nope, he’s gonna say nothing today, so let me say on his behalf.
Kolkata football is heading towards a corporate structure. But according to me, he was the first ‘CEO’ of Indian club football. He was the one who used to take the authority of the team build up as well as the role of a team manager. He had such vision to spot foreign talents that he brought amazing foreign players like Jackson, Suley Musah and Opoku from Ghana. He used to travel in various countries to find quality foreigners for East Bengal. He was called such an encyclopedia that he could memorize every line of the AIFF and IFA constitutions. His colleagues used to heap high praises for him for his exceptional quality of drafting official letters. It was his administrative brilliance which protected East Bengal from so many crucial off-the field troubles.
There was a time, when Swapan Bal seemed to be a storm. Apart from the players, the only concern for the opposition team used to be Swapan Bal. But he always wanted to stay behind the curtains. The way he used to lead his team through to the tunnel of the Salt Lake Stadium was itself a phenomenon. The moment he used to enter into the ground, he used to show a gesture of spontaneous aggression to the opposition gallery. Then with every pat he used to do on the back of his players, he generated energy chargers to the players. A man who used to tremble with passion, utmost emotion, haughty attitude, desperation and his trademark body language. The Red and Gold Gallery too used to get excited with the loudest of cheers and fire whist used to get injected by Swapan Bal. Manaranjan, Chima, Krishanu and Bikash used to carry the fire on the field in Red and Gold colours. On the flip side, Swapan Bal used to appear as a terrifying opposition off the field. Even the IFA and match officials used to get afraid to go close to him.
I think the aggression and never-say-die attitude for which East Bengal was so familiar, was particularly goaded by this man. A peculiar human being who devoted all his life for the sake of the club. He and Debabrata Sarkar both spent a large amount of time in their early day at Paltu Das’ place. Today, when I went to the club to see Swapan Bal for the one last time, I found Paltu Das’ wife was crying in utmost disbelief. Debabrata Sarkar was taking care of the subtlest of things. Perhaps, they were fighting their best to digest what happened. Such had been their reaction. The quality of student he was, he could have opted for any other profession. But he never went for it, his point of love and interest had always been the club.
The man who apparently seemed angry, haughty, eventually became a very cordial person in the later part of his life. Every time when we used to meet, he used to ask about my family members and the other things.
The sad demise of Swapan Bal has been a huge loss for the Indian football, the Kolkata Maidan and more importantly an end to a running history. But the biggest loss it is for the East Bengal club. It is next to impossible to find a soldier like him these days.
Wherever you are, we will miss you. Indian football will miss you. Your club East Bengal will miss you. See you in the galaxy.