Dhritiprasad Mahato woke up very early on Saturday morning. It being a weekend, and with no college, Dhriti would normally sleep late. But not today. He left home at 5.30 am, and boarded the bus from Lalgarh to Midnapore with lot of trepidation. He had to reach Kolkata by the afternoon.
Dhriti spent the two-hour bus ride and the next five hours on the train in silence. “I was very nervous when I left home today,” Dhriti said.
He had been to Kolkata before, but this time it was different. He had to appear for a football trial. It could open up a world of opportunities for the 20-year-old.
He has had his share of disappointments. Being the son of Maoist sympathiser Chattradhar Mahato, who was sentenced to a life in prison last month by a West Bengal court on charges of sedition, comes with unpleasant, unintended consequences. He has been the subject of scrutiny and has faced discrimination on account of his surname. But Dhriti has an undying spirit.
Reaching the ground, Dhriti got into his gear, took a few deep breaths and started loosening up. Raghu Nandi, who had played for the Big Three in Kolkata football — East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting — and is now a successful coach with a knack of spotting talent, was waiting.
Nandi is now the coach-cum-technical director of Measurers Club, which has gained promotion to the first division of the IFA League after 100 years. The club is on a roll and has moved up the ranks in division football in the last few years. Nandi was looking for some promising boys to make the next jump, into the Premier Division, and the trial was the first step.
Like Dhriti, a number of boys had turned up for practice. Slightly nervous, Dhriti got through the drills and by the time the practice match started, he was in his element. A nice half-turn, good pace down the right flank and soon club officials gathered to monitor the trials started taking notice of this rather frail, average-looking boy in an Argentina jersey.
“He was a bit tentative initially. But he gathered himself as the game progressed,” said Nandi.
By the time the practice match ended, Dhriti had made a place for himself in the Measurers team. “He has a lot of talent. He has got good pace and plenty of skill. He needs to be groomed a bit,” the coach said.
The club has decided to sign Dhriti on a one-year contract and he will complete the necessary paper works on Tuesday.
Having faced the wrong end of the stick for the better part of his life, Dhriti could not believe his luck.
“He deserves to play. He is a good kid and we have picked him on merit. We have nothing to do with what his father did,” said Dibyendu Narayan Biswas, secretary of Measurers Club. “We will give him every chance to flourish,” Nandi added.
Poverty has shaped Dhriti’s life. He knows the importance of education, for it can fetch him a job. “I have to keep studying. I hope to get myself enrolled in a college in Kolkata,” said the first year graduation student of Lalgarh College.
But football will remain his first love.
“I will try to repay the trust the coach and other officials have shown in me,” Dhriti said as he got ready to return home, another seven hours of train ride and bus journey later, in Lalgarh.