“I once asked my father, who was the biggest footballer – Dadu or Pele?” Exclusive with Gostha Paul’s grandson Girbban Paul

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Only a few days ago, we presented to you some untold stories of the Chinese Wall of India, the great Gostha Paul. But, how does it feel to be the grandson of a legendary footballer? In an exclusive interview, Gostha Paul’s descendant Girbban Paul has talked about this.

Girbban Paul was born 7 months after his legendary grandfather passed away. But, he can clearly recollect that his aura loomed large on the family and I think from the time I was in my senses, I heard so much about him.” He told that people used to look at him differently whenever they came to know that he is the grandson of the great Gostha Paul. At that age when a child believes everything that he hears, specially some legendary stories about a relative, it was of no wonder that Girbban once asked his father, “Who was the bigger footballer… Dadu or Pele?”

Much similar to a middle class Bengali family of the 80s and 90s, Girbban’s childhood involved going to classes of all forms; singing, drawing, sports and it also revolved around the usual Bong dream of becoming a doctor or an engineer. However, unlike those usual families, football was an integral part of his life. Girbban used to train with the legendary Sahu Mewalal’s coaching centre during his childhood days. However, after he joined Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya at the age of 10, he did not take the beautiful sport that seriously.

He could not but confess, “I wasn’t hard working enough to be willing to be a footballer and I chose the easy middle class dream to make a living with my brains.” But yes, the national manager of IIFL also thinks, “there is still a lot of time for me to commit to football and who knows maybe in the future with the opportunities surrounding football increasing, I will be around the pitch.”

Gostha Paul with his grandchildren. (Photo shared by Girbban Paul)
Gostha Paul with his grandchildren. (Photo shared by Girbban Paul)

In spite of not being actively involved with the sport, Girbban never stopped watching it. He distinctly remembers that people used to gather on the match-days and watch Mohun Bagan games on the television. And to celebrate a Mohun Bagan win, “occasionally we used to go to the Sealdah market to meet up some friends and get sweets from Kamala Mistanna Bhandar.”

Gostha Paul’s son was also a footballer and played Calcutta Football League for close to 12 years as a left back, till a knee injury cut his career short. He was once given an offer to join arch-rivals East Bengal and that indeed would have been a stepping stone for a glorious career for him. Nevertheless, a born Mohun Bagan supporter, he proudly declined that offer.

Girbban used to visit the derby at Salt Lake Stadium with his father but that had to end. And he blames the crowd mentality for his. In his words, “my father started feeling that the atmosphere in the crowds and times were changing… belonging to an era when people were thrown out of the member’s gallery of Mohun Bagan ground for using abusive language, it was difficult for him to accept the reality.”

Later, Girbban visited the derby with his uncle, who, ironically, was an East Bengal Club member. I distinctly recall once, everyone around me sat down and I was the only one up on my feet on a goal being scored… I was sitting with all East Bengal fans in the East Bengal gallery and Mohun Bagan had scored the goal,” Girbban recollected.

He's a great photographer. Here is a photo Girbban Paul clicked in a Mohun Bagan match.
He’s a great photographer. Here is a photo Girbban Paul clicked in a Mohun Bagan match.

A fan of the beautiful sport, Girbban Paul kicks the ball whenever he gets the time at intra office tournaments. he also watches games of his beloved team from time to time.

Although Girbban watches European and Latin American football on and off, he does not really have a favorite team in those parts of the world. He likes Barcelona talisman Neymar to some extent but he also thinks that it’s more because of the usual Calcuttan norm before 1986 when Maradona came in the life of Bengali football lovers. Nonetheless, he does have a favorite team. And no points for guessing it. Beyond doubt, Gostha Paul’s grand-son’s most favorite team in the world is Mohun Bagan and he hopes to see the flag flying high for ever.

Girbban Paul signed off with a strong message for the Indian football fans, players and administrators. Always a fan and well-wisher of Indian football, Girbban said that a lot can be done for the game, specially on the administrative front to make the game more popular and marketable to the masses. He emphasized that, of late, there has been a renewed interest across the cities. “I see families coming back to watch football at the stadium. I see a change in the parenting patterns as well. Being a doc or an engineer aren’t the only options now, a footballer can also earn big money,” Girbban said to us.

He hopes that the administrators will not let this opportunity pass and will work heart and soul to improve the condition of Indian football. Let us also hope for the same and hope that Girbban’s wish “to shout for the Boys in Blue in a World Cup match against the Samba guys” will come true someday, possibly within the next 20 years.

 

(You wanna share some memories of Gostha Paul or Girbban paul? Let us know in the comments below!)

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