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Gautam Sarkar was an exceptional footballer in his heydays. Befittingly,his benefit match at the Mohun Bagan ground on Friday was a special occasion. Sourav Ganguly was there,brushing aside a mild fever and wearing his football boots to lead a host of former stars.
Mithun Chakraborty was the captain of the other team,which too had a constellation of past greats. People from other walks of life dropped in. Singer Babul Supriyo played a full match,trying to score from the striker’s position. Actor Sabyasachi Chakraborty watched the proceedings from the sidelines.
In the 1970s,Gautam Sarkar was known as the ‘Beckenbauer’ of the Maidan for his tackle and tenacity. This ground saw many of his heroics as a green-and-maroons midfielder. Here he took on Pele in a match against Cosmos in 1977 and earned accolades from the master. A year later,he boldly stood in the way of the Russian World Cuppers as Bagan shared the IFA Shield title with FC Ararat.
But today Sarkar was overwhelmed to be honoured like this. “I didn’t get the Arjuna award but today everything is forgiven and forgotten. I just wish the youngsters,who came to watch this game,become good footballers and serve Bengal,” he said.
The match was organised by Sports and Beyond and Sarkar was presented with a cheque of Rs 10.6 lakh.
But more than the money or match,it was a reunion of the golden oldies and a platform to break the barriers.
Mithun was welcomed by sports minister Madan Mitra and the two shared a hearty laugh over a joke. “I watched Gautam in his prime from the terraces. I feel honoured to be a part of his benefit match,” said the star actor before leaving.
The match between Sourav XI and Mithun XI ended in a goalless draw.