The Football Legend
For those of us who were fortunate enough to be part of the national football team of the seventies, Nannu Bhai (Monower Hosain Nannu) was one of the star football players of that time. It was in 1968 that I saw him for the first time when he used to live at the BG Press Colony in the Tejgaon Industrial Area while I used to reside in Maghbazar.
Between BG Press and Maghbazar, there was an empty field, which was logged with water in monsoon but substituted as our playing field during the winter months. Every evening we used to play football there.
Nannu Bhai was eight years older than me and his younger brother Monju is a close friend of mine while his nephew Saju is my class-friend. We were all students of BAF Shaheen School and after school, the every other day, we went to Nannu Bhai's grandfather's house. Every evening we used to play at Maghbazar Jheel (an empty land beside Begun Bari). Nannu Bhai used to play in the Second Division League at that time and started his career with BG Press Club.
When I started my football career in 1970, I participated in the Pakistan Youth Championship and then joined Wari Club. Nannu Bhai was already at Wari and helped teach me football tactics. His affection and care towards younger players was second to none and he was very protective about us. After the Liberation War, Nannu Bhai joined Mohammedan Sporting Club and was one of the most gentle and polite booters on the field. During the years of heat and excitement of post-independence football years, encompassing mostly Abahani and Mohammedan, Nannu Bhai was an icon of civility, grace, and compassion that made him a role model for the rest of us.
Now talking about the game, when Abahani started adopting 4-2-4/4-3-3 system, Nannu Bhai was the key architect of the team. I saw his best game against Kolkata's Mohun Bagan in Dhaka. He was playing for the Bangladesh Football Federation Eleven and gave one of his best performances on field. Another superstar of that era, Kazi Salahuddin, scored the winning goal and the BFF XI won.
However, Nannu Bhai was the key player of that match. In the VIP Gallery, some Indian star footballers and sport journalists were asking about Nannu Bhai, "Who is this player?" They said that they had seen a lot of footballers but never saw such a skilled one like Nannu in this region. His tackling ability in the defence amazed everyone. Particularly, he was the pioneer in introducing what is popularly known as 'sliding tackle' in football.
When Nannu Bhai retired from football, many of us insisted that he starts coaching. We used to tell him that youngsters of this country needed to have the opportunity to learn from a gifted and talented player like him. For some untold and unexpressed 'obhiman', he would remain silent and only give a gentle smile and change the topic.
Given the decent man he was, quite rare in our sports arena, he never told anyone why he so silently withdrew from the world of Bangladeshi football which could have benefited so much had he been active in his post-retirement years either as a coach or as an organiser. Now seeing the plight of some of our much revered players (like Salahuddin Bhai) who tried to help Bangladeshi football, I guess Nannu Bhai was wise enough not to step into this world which has become so politicised, unprofessional, and petty.
I now live in the USA and came to Bangladesh a couple of days before Nannu Bhai's death and I came to know of the sad news of Nannu Bhai's demise. When I heard the news, I was in shock and was reflecting on the past 38 years of memory with him. For those of us who were fortunate enough to see the golden age of football in Bangladesh, Nannu Bhai was one of the most shining stars in a galaxy that had celebrities like Salahuddin, Enayet, Shantu, Tipu, Protap and many other legends. Unfortunately, the current generation did not have the chance to see the magic they possessed in their feet.
May God grant Nannu Bhai the peace and serenity that he so easily generated wherever he went and may He give his family the strength to overcome this irreparable loss.
The writer is a former national youth footballer and freedom fighter