Kolkata is known for one of the most popular derbies in the world, Mohun Bagan AC vs. East Bengal FC, where more than one lakh people [one hundred thousand people] turn out every time they face each other.
But, over the years most of the grounds for kids have been taken over by real estate companies looking to make high-rise buildings, leaving very few grounds for kids to play football. There was not a single football coaching club in our area of Shibpur, Howrah. Most of the kids were spending time on video games because playing football meant they would have to travel three or more hours to reach a playground.
Then Mr Pradip and Pranab Chatterjee (both ex-footballers) started a free football coaching centre called The Sudip Chatterjee Memorial Football Coaching Centre. The centre is named after the legendary Indian central midfielder Sudip Chatterjee who had captained the Indian national football team but passed away at the early age of 47 in 2006.
At the start it was very difficult, the ground was not suitable for playing, the surface was not good and there were thorny bushes all around. But people of all ages from my community got together, working hard in shifts. Elders, youngsters, housewives… everyone got together and in few months the ground was complete and slowly kids from around Shibpur started turning up.
This place has brought the community together today. It’s unbelievable how The Jungle (that’s what everybody called this place before) has united everyone. Now it’s a paradise for kids. It feels very nice when you see hundreds of kids playing football and elders supporting and cheering.
"I Need a Kia" so that I can transport all the poor kids who stay really far, about 5 to 6 kilometers away, and walk all the way from their homes everyday. They don’t even have enough money for travelling on the bus but they are so passionate about football that they walk all the way.
I try to pick up and drop off one or two kids at a time on my bicycle. If I had a Kia I could help a lot more and more kids would be able to join this free football coaching centre. This club has made football so popular in our community that whether it’s Manchester United or Mohun Bagan they don’t miss a match.
My name is Santanu. I am a newspaper columnist and I’m a resident of Shibpur, Howrah.