A life not wasted, nor forgotten
Occasionally an athlete transcends the boundaries of his sporting arena and attains a civil personality through his many socio-welfare activities, albeit woven intricately with the game. Add to that the camaraderie of his colleagues, the respect he warrants from his staff, a restrained rapport with politicians of all shades, humbly magnanimous in victory, and you have Badal Roy.
From a twinkle that flickered in laidback Eliotganj in Comilla, Badal Roy dazzled as a football star for the capital's Mohammedan Sporting Club for a decade and two, that is, for the entirety of his career in top flight, winning the league title five times between 1977-89. Incidentally, MSC secured their first league title in 1957, the year Badal Roy was born on July 4.
He was drafted for national duties in 1981, and remained in the red and green colours for half his playing career. His stint as coach of his Mohammedan was bland by comparison, but he was more of an accomplished organiser. For all his travails, he was decorated with the National Sports Award in 2009.
To the "intelligent" striker, prolific scorer, and famously the unselfish goal-assister in the black and white No 10 jersey, Badal played for none other ever, football was his life, and sadly perhaps his death.
The three-term (2008 to 2020) Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) vice-president who exemplified integrity and fairness, was struck by brain haemorrhage in 2017. "I remain immensely grateful to PM (Sheikh Hasina) without whose affection and support my complicated treatment in Singapore was unthinkable", recalled Badal, pausing to add in deep gratitude, "I would not have lived", his voice slurred due to his speech disability and partial paralysis. Despite that difficulty, Badal walked up the four floors to my consulting office three to four times over the last two years.
The idle brain, driven by the devil, assumes often, erroneously always, that a long-term player, and official of Dhaka Mohammedan (derivative of Muslim) Sporting, founded 1936, must have political and ideological leaning towards the right. Wrong! For the gen of the ill-informed, half the 30 players of the Shadhin Bangla Football Team, formed in exile during our War of Liberation, were from Mohammedan Sporting.
Furthermore, it was on a Chhatra League ticket that the charismatic Badal Roy, the natural choice as Dhaka University's Sports Secretary, swept the Ducsu elections in the mid-1970s. Around that time, I visited Badal's Jagannath Hall room to accept a lasting gift, a pair of running shoes he had brought from his tour abroad, then an infrequent affair.
Unfortunately, the Awami League pick in 1991 national elections for a Comilla constituency, Badal was not returned, but he remained humble in defeat, never a foul word against his political adversaries, even those within his party.
While some nouveau Awami Leaguers distance themselves from Mohammedan Sporting, Badal Roy remained a proud adherent of Nauka along with many in the club during its ups and downs. His love and loyalty for the party and the club were genuine, ingrained in deep-rooted understanding of the philosophy of both.
Badal was kindly critical of a few football colleagues, who made a name through sports but, despite their affluence, later looked the other way when it came to supporting their club. In the aftermath of the government crackdown on club-based casinos in September 2019, Badal and other sports personalities had no part, Mohammedan found themselves at rock bottom organisationally and in a serious crisis financially, as did several other clubs. Badal Roy played a pivotal role to steady the love of his life.
"I had money saved for my essential checkup. I told my wife that we have to give that to the (Mohammedan) club because of the need of the hour. Others gave too, but some who genuinely could did not," lamented Badal during one of his visits while having his Wyer Street house designed by me. On a patch of about three katha, Badal and my office spent hours to fulfil his requirements of comfort and airiness, utility and economy.
Badal Roy was deeply humane. Seeing his demeanour with all and sundry, hearing his exchanges of pleasantries, and observing his reverence for Islamic practices, it was obvious that he did not discriminate among individuals. As for me, I always got a warm "Salaam" and a "Khoda Hafez" from him.
The September BFF elections was further undoing of his health. He was aspiring to be president, not to reign, but to try and clean the rot, the dormancy. His body said "No", but his mind and soul wanted to mend an organisation, which "does not follow rules and regulations". Badal's heart was literally burning.
"A little effort, Nizam Bhai, and I could have won. But my condition …", stated a mentally unwavering Badal, who raked almost half the tally despite his withdrawal on health grounds. A swing of 27 votes could have been a befitting prize for his uprightness and dedication.
Our last rickshaw ride together was to where I cannot remember, but the occasion was an election rally for our incumbent club president, the BNP candidate for the Dhaka-10 by-election 2004. Badal and I had gathered at the club, but we two clearly did not fit. As the pageant, marked by banners, bands, and horse carriages, eased out of the club gate, we fell behind inconspicuously, to embark on a three-wheeler to a different destination.
Badal was in a haste to commence with his building. He wanted me to again sit with him and his wife. But, the Covid situation did not permit, although he had somewhat recovered from a bout with the dreaded disease. On November 1 he pleasingly conveyed over phone that he had received our couriered drawings, that there was a developer interested, etc. Four days later, he was again taken ill. On November 22, Badal Roy breathed his last.
Rest in peace, Badal. Someone will surely rise to realise your BFF mission. Lives like yours are never wasted.
Dr Nizamuddin Ahmed is a practising Architect at BashaBari Ltd., a Commonwealth Scholar and a Fellow, a Baden-Powell Fellow Scout Leader, and a Major Donor Rotarian.