Let’s play the football – the Bengal way- a unique initiative by Heritage Bengal Global Group, UK
On 15th of August, Heritage Bengal Global (HBG), a group of passionate Bengali diaspora in UK along with few enthusiastic Calcuttans had organised a football tournament in London called IFA Shield-UK (IFASUK) where IFA represents Indian Fans Alliance. This FA accredited tournament, in its 3rd year from inception in 2018, was themed ‘Play Football the Bengal Way’ keeping with the tradition of “ghoti-bangal” rivalry of the Calcutta maidan to celebrate 100 years of East Bengal – Mohun Bagan derby in Bengal.
Although the inspiration of this IFA Shield-UK came from the original maidan IFA Shield, one of the 4 oldest club football tournaments still being played along with the FA Cups of England and Scotland and the Durand Cup of India, this initiative found very good support from the Veterans’ Sports Club of Kolkata besides SC East Bengal and ATK Mohun Bagan who helped the tournament in UK with respective Club jerseys.
In order to celebrate the success of this initiative and relive the glorious heritage of the Calcutta Maidan Football in its city, HBG and IFASUK organised this commemorative event, which was a curtain-raiser for a more deeper co-operation between HBG and IFASUK along with the Sports Department of Bengal, the British Deputy High Commission in Kolkata and the Veterans’ Sports Club with the goal to revive the lost glory of India’s football heritage and a vision to build a sustainable ecosystem to nurture young talents and support them to become professional players and thus help to grow Indian football.
Heritage Bengal Global’s UK Director, Anirban Mukhopadhyay said, “This has always been my dream to connect back with our motherland Bengal and help facilitate reviving its rich heritage and what could have more appropriate than following the words of Swami Vivekananda that one may reach to God faster through football than through the Gita. IFA Shield-UK has been our endeavour towards embodying a healthy mind and soul.”
Legendary Indian forward and chairman of the All India Football Federation’s technical committee Shyam Thapa
praised this unique initiative.For the betterment of football, other organizations should also take some steps like Heritage Bengal Global group.It’s really commendable, he added.
The Indian partner and project lead of HBG, Debashis Ghosh reiterated the keen interest of British collaborators to connect with Bengal through different sports projects and this event was the stepping stone towards bigger partnerships and co-operation with state Sports Department and the football fraternities of Bengal along with an association of Veterans’ Sports Club and George Telegraph.
Due to health related issues AIFF Vice President and IFA Chairman – Subrata Dutta was not able to attend this event physically so he sent a message –
“It was truly a celebration of football. Not just football, but Bengal football, which as you know is very close to my heart. From this I realised two things. First, it establishes the universal truth that football is an integral part in the life of a Bengali . And second, it shows how as a culture, we Bengalis have truly become international through football. I would like to congratulate and extend my gratitude to Heritage Bengal Global for organising this event and showcasing Bengal football on a global platform”.
Given that Indian Fans Alliance Shield shares its name with the original IFA Shield, it also helps the traditional tournament to be promoted on an international scale, something we at The Indian Football Association, West Bengal have always tried to achieve.Mr Subrata Dutta also added.
The programme was a reminisce of Bengal’s football legacy “Phire dekha Bangali r football ooitijjyo” (Looking back at Bengal’s football legacy), where the legends of Veterans’ Sports Club including international footballers and Olympians, namely Arun Ghosh, Chandan Banerjee, Shyam Thapa, Samaresh (Pintu) Chowdhury, Mihir Bose, Nasir Ahmed, Kartick Seth, Sumit Mukherjee, Prasanta Chakraborty and others shared their many unheard stories with the renowned sports commentator Mr. Pradip Roy who anchored the session with aplomb.
Many eminent dignitaries and personalities from the sporting fraternities of Bengal along with the Hon’ble Minister- in -Charge Aroop Biswas , former cricketer and state minister for Sports, Manoj Tiwari and the British Deputy High Commissioner Nick Low and the corporate and social echelon of Bengal also graced the occasion.
(With inputs from Pratyusha Mukherjee, a BBC Journalist based in Kolkata)