Mamata, hundreds of fans pay last respects to Amal Dutta

Kolkata, July 11 (IANS) The country’s first professional full-time football coach Amal Dutta will be cremated on Monday with full state honours, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced here as hundreds of football lovers poured in to offer their last respects.

Dutta, 86, passed away at a city hospital on Sunday following old age related complications. As a coach, he had introduced new formations including the exciting diamond system to enthrall the spectators in the 1990s.

“Amal Dutta was a legend in football coaching and his loss is irreparable. He is Bengal’s pride and his final rites will be completed with full state honours,” Banerjee announced.

Banerjee and a host of state ministers and former and current footballers paid their last respects to Dutta at Rabindra Sadan here. Football fans and supporters, who fell in love with Dutta’s vision, also poured in to be beside him in his last journey.

His body will be later taken to East Bengal and Mohun Bagan — twin city football giants — he was associated with.

The final rites will be performed at a city crematorium.

A midfielder during his playing days, Dutta represented India in the 1954 Asian Games at Manila.

Post his playing career, he went to England for a one-year FA coaching course, where he was taught by the renowned Walter Winterbottom.

In a country where most sportspersons then aimed at landing a government job for bringing stability in their lives, Dutta swam against the current and quit as a railway employee out of his love for soccer and to pursue a full-time professional coaching career.

He is hailed as the country’s first professional football coach, and credited for shaping the sport in India.

Dutta’s first assignment with a big club was in 1963 with East Bengal, and from the outset he showed great tactical planning, and a daring to opt for new systems.

On July 13, 1997, a record 1.31 lakh plus spectators gathered at the Salt Lake stadium here to witness a derby game between Amal Dutta-coached Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.

It was the Federation Cup semi-final, and soccer aficionados’ expectations had sky-rocketed with Dutta introducing the Diamond system (4-1-2-1-2 formation) first time in Indian football. Though Mohun Bagan went down 1-4, the way they played throughout the tournament gave much joy to the fans.

“He was trying to demoralise us before the game. He called Bhaichung (Bhutia) ‘Chung Chung’ but that did not affect me. I did not give in to his taunts,” remembered P.K. Banerjee, who was East Bengal’s gaffer then.

‘PK’ also fondly recollected his playing days with Dutta. “Amal da was my senior. We played together also. He even used to abuse me when I could not play well. But then we got along well off the pitch.”

“He liked music too. He used to play an instrument and we together used to have lovely adda sessions.”

“It’s like losing a very special person,” PK said.

Indian midfielder Mehtab Hossain said, “It’s a huge loss for Indian football. I played under him in Tollygunge. I saw how he used to make players, train them focusing on basics. I don’t think there will be any body like him.”

–IANS

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