She followed East Bengal wherever the team played, selling hard candy and earned the sobriquet ‘Lozenges Didi’. Amid the nationwide lockdown her earnings have ceased and the fans have come to the aid of Jamuna Das. The lockdown meant that the childless widow, a ubiquitous face during East Bengal matches selling candy since 1993, had no source of income.
“I was beginning to worry with little ration and money left and started feeling lonely. But after a few days, all the fan groups started calling me and sending donations and food items,” the 56-year-old Das told PTI from her house in Agarpara.
“Today, a fan group came with a big van, full of gorceries and donated some money also. Many of whom I’m hearing for the first time but they are taking full care of me.”
Clad in a red-yellow (East Bengal club colours) sari, Das would be seen wading through the Maidan crowd with a bulging bag slung across her shoulders that contain Lozenges. She has been a fan of the club since her childhood with her family from Faridpur (now in Bangladesh) a die-hard supporter of the club. Then she got married to Gopal Das who too was originally from Dhaka.
“East Bengal is in my blood. If someone lives within me after my late husband, it’s my club, East Bengal,” she said.
But her fan-appeal is not only confined to East Bengal as fans of their arch-rivals Mohun Bagan too hail her and buy candy from her.
“In fact Mohun Bagan fans too called me to inquire about my well-being. They said you are the ‘Maidan’s Didi’ we will be with you always. I was deeply touched,” she said in a voice choked with tears.
“They (fans) are my extended family, and I never feel alone even after my husband’s death (who died after a sudden cardiac arrest in June last year).”
“I just pray that the lockdown ends soon and the virus is conquered. Bose bose khete aar bhalo lagche na (I want to earn and live but not on alms),” she said.
Aniket Chattopadhyay of United East Bengal Lovers’ Forum, said,”The club officials have also contacted her and raised money for her. We are just doing our bit. She has been the true fan of East Bengal.”
East Bengal’s ISL aspirations
Meanwhile, East Bengal top-official Debarata Sarkar on Thursday said their “dream” is to play in the Indian Super League.
The season has officially ended abruptly with Mohun Bagan declared winners. They have merged with reigning ISL champions ATK and all eyes are now on East Bengal to follow suit.
“It’s our dream to play in the ISL. If Mohun Bagan can play in the ISL, we can also do that. We are trying our best for that and are in talks with potential investors. But we have not yet reached a stage for announcement,” Sarkar told PTI.
It’s learnt that East Bengal are also taking the help of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee but Sarkar refused to comment.
“At a time when people of the country are dying and starving (because of the COVID-19 pandemic), nobody is thinking about all this now. Let us overcome this phase, then we will talk about it. But definitely the club’s target is ISL,” Sarkar said.
East Bengal however have started building the team for the upcoming season with signing of Iranian-origin winger Omid Singh, along with Indian trio of Mohammed Irshad, Novin Gurung and Bikramjit Singh. Indian Arrows’ duo of Ricky Shabong and Harmanpreet Singh are also on the radar.
East Bengal had a patchy I-League campaign that saw them parting away with coach Alejandaro Menendez after losing the derby to eventual champions Mohun Bagan. They finished second (23 points) with four matches left in the table when the season was called off.
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