Subhas Bhowmick: A quintessential show-stopper in football’s theatre of dream | Football News – Times of India

Subhas Bhowmick dramatically got off his seat from the dug-out, kissed his lucky charm, briefly waved to the jubilant fans and went out of sight through the tunnel. The game was still five-odd-minutes to go but the February 22 evening in 2009 at the flood-lit Salt Lake Stadium was already resplendent and illuminating with a jinx-breaking show — a 3-0 win for his East Bengal team, ending the red-and-gold brigade’s nine match winless streak against Mohun Bagan in Kolkata and halting the arch-rivals’ ten match winning run in the I-League.
Bhowmick always needed a dramatic stage to realize his dream. However star-studded the stage was, he remained the quintessential protagonist, a show-stealer, a man who married his method with an unflinching rhetorical fancy. It was never stereotypical, but rather a symphony of contrasts. This is why, it’s so charming, captivating — and yet conflicting.
Eight months later, at the same stage, he saw his world turned upside down when the same Mohun Bagan came back to haunt him and hunt his team down with a 5-3 demolition. Bhowmick — who presided over East Bengal’s most famous victory against the traditional rivals, a 5-0 win in the 1975 IFA Shield final — suddenly found himself overshadowed by a sense of hamartia.
He quit as East Bengal coach the following day. Although he rose like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes, guiding Churchill Brothers to an I-League crown in the 2012-2013 season, his subsequent returns to the Big Two as technical directors were short-lived, largely unsuccessful and shorn of the usual sparks which had illuminated the earlier part of his coaching career.
Although he started his coaching career in Mohun Bagan, back in 1991, he found in East Bengal his theatre of dream. Here, the strangeness and the timelessness of his repertoire as a man with the manager’s apron came to life. From 2002 to 2005 — during which he scripted back-to-back National Football League titles for East Bengal and modern Indian club football’s most celebrated triumph on foreign soil, the Asean Club Championship in Jakarta in 2003 — Bhowmick trotted the stage like a man with a Midas touch. Long before the Indian Super League introduced us to the idea of five-star hotel accommodation, Bhowmick took his players to a city hotel on the EM Bypass and hired a professional physio from South Africa on way to conquering his Mission Jakarta.
“I wanted my team to be a model of modern football, leaving a legacy for other clubs to follow,” he said at that time, puffing one cigarette after another. An elementary sight of him till his final days.
In East Bengal, this cliché-destroying visionary exhibited a paragon of exhilarating highs, encompassing drama, genius and controversy. However, the high also came with a low when his coaching career was temporarily halted after CBI arrested him for ‘bribery’ charges in 2005.
“I want to live my life my way. I am not a slave to the established order,” he often said in his devil-may-care tone.
He didn’t have any formal coaching degree, neither did he want to have it.
This is perhaps a special form of cinematic torment that he learnt to live with, maybe with a measure of audacity.
It was also in full evidence when he ruled the roost both at East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in the 1970s, scoring 82 and 84 goals for them respectively. A prodigious talent, he belonged to a rare breed who dominated Indian club football both as a player and a coach.
Much of this trade, he once said, was gained from watching his coaching guru PK Banerjee and two idols Chuni Goswami and Balaram at close quarters. He didn’t have the artistry of Chuni nor have Balaram’s pervading mastery of total football. He was perhaps more like a version of PK. Bhowmick’s former teammates like Gautam Sarkar, Bidesh Bose and Subrata Bhattacharya recall that when in full flow, Bhowmick was always am intrinsic pleasure of nonchalantly defying and evading the tough-tackling defenders with his bulldozing acceleration and cut-ins.
Yet, from being an avowed reader of Sidney Sheldon books to developing a brief habit of drinking, Bhowmick never lived in stereotypes and always let his career and life thrive in a mixture of fantasy and fragility, almost in a non-compromising way.
Bhowmick is leaving behind a conflicted legacy. His time in Indian football may have been a playwright’s dream. His theatre of dream has often been challenged with setbacks, but ultimately, it’s one of triumph and a celebration of his unique joie de vivre.

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