Shanto Mitra, who passed away in Kolkata recently, was easily one of Indian football’s great defenders and a gentleman.
Shanto Mitra, 75, who passed away in Kolkata on Sunday, April 30, was easily one of Indian football’s great defenders.
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Shanto Mitra succumbed to cancer after a prolonged battle much as he had against the best of attackers in the 1960s and 1970s. He always came out triumphant. But this was one ‘attack’ he weathered for long but no longer.
Shanto Mitra was a very outspoken and no-nonsense man. He always believed in calling a spade a spade. His approach saw him being sidelined often by the powers that be who almost always encourage sycophancy.
Yet, such was his talent and contribution to Bengal and Indian football, that it was difficult to overlook him.
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Mitra played at a time when attack and attack was the watchword. The back pass was frowned upon and players with tremendous ball control, skills and speed were in many club line-ups.
Yet, getting past this tough tackler was a difficult proposition. His sense of anticipation and game reading was tremendous.
He was immensely popular in Bengal and was made the Sheriff of Kolkata in 2009.
He turned out for the red and gold during their golden era when they won the Calcutta League for six years in a row.
Mitra donned East Bengal colours IFA Shield from 1965 to 1973. The dependable left-back was the captain of the East Bengal team in 1970 when they defeated the strong Pas Club of Iran in the IFA Shield final. It was that victory which saw the East Bengal supporters burn every bit of paper available and give the team a torch-light reception.
Mitra was a natural choice for Bengal in many a Santosh Trophy winning campaign. He represented India in the Merdeka Tournament in 1968 which had the likes of Arun Ghosh (Captain), Syed Nayeemuddin, Altaf Ahmed, Sunil Bhattacharya, M John and Chandreshwar Prasad, Krishnaji Rao, Kajal Mukherjee, fighting for a place in the playing eleven.
No sooner his playing days were over, Shanto Mitra took to coaching and coached the Indian team as Yugoslavia’s Ciric Milovan’s deputy during the 1984 Nehru Cup in Kolkata. He also coached the India juniors on many occasions with Karnataka’s Nagendra.
Mitra, who retired as a high-level officer with the State Bank of India, was the manager of the side for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games soccer qualifiers. Mitra was the football project director during the 2002 Asian Games.
“He was a very upright and fine gentleman and a great human being with immense knowledge. It was a challenge to play against him in his hey days. It is a great loss to Bengal and Indian football,” said his former India teammate Krishnaji Rao.
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