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    The Bangla goals of Kerala football

    THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: When India beat Afghanistan to win the 2011 South Asian Football Federation Championship (SAFF) in New Delhi on December 11, there was much rejoicing in a household in the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram. Pradip Dutta, the coach of the national football team had rung up his wife Sunita in their home at Kariavattom to tell her of the victory of his men. “It was a proud moment for me, one of the most cherished in my nine-year experience in this field,” says Dutta. Having lived in Thiruvananthapuram for the past 15 years, Dutta, assistant professor in Lakshmibai National College of Physical Education, Kariavattom, would call himself a naturalised Malayali.A native of the legendary town of Barakpur in West Bengal, the epicentre of the 1857 revolt, Dutta was a seasoned Football and Hockey player at national interuniversity meets during his younger days. By the time he joined the LNCPE in 1995 after a brief stint in Patiala National Institute of Sports, he had shifted his focus to coaching national and state teams for both Hockey and Football. “Until the last Common Wealth Games, I was the official coach of the national Hockey team. I have also coached the Hockey team for Asian Games. When the SAFF games was scheduled, I was appointed the coach of the national Football team and we were able to produce good results,” says Dutta. He has a long association with the Kerala Football team, having coached the State team for Santhosh Trophy. He has also worked with several junior and sub-junior teams in Kerala and underscores 1the abundance of talent in the State. “There is definitely a good number of promising players and if we provide enough infrastructure and other facilities, they will give brilliant performances,” he says. Dutta smiles when quizzed about the hurdle of language while communicating with his students in Kerala. “I have picked up enough Malayalam to communicate freely with my wards. There was no other option, especially when working with school children.”Dutta lives with his wife Sunita, a former sports person at the LNCPE quarters. His son is currently doing MBA in Delhi. Even while basking in the joy of the victory at SAFF, the veteran coach is tormented by the negligence of the Kerala government towards his long stint in the State. “After the Commonwealth and Asian Games, every state felicitated its players and coaches and Kerala was no exception. Only, nobody thought of me or my role in the teams’ good performances. In Kerala, I am considered a Bengali and thus an outsider while in Bengal, I am considered an immigrant who has made Kerala his home. I don’t crave any benefits from the government. But, a recognition of one’s dedication can certainly be a morale booster.”