By Soumo Ghosh,
AIFF Media Team
KOLKATA: Last year the Bangladesh National Team had faced off against India in Kolkata, where the two teams walked off with a point apiece (with a 1-1 score line). A little over a year later, the man who had led Bangladesh out onto the turf at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, Jamal Bhuyan, is all set to return to the City of Joy, albeit, with completely different intentions.
Newly promoted Hero I-League side Mohammedan SC have named Jamal as one of their latest signings ahead of the new campaign.
“An offer from the Hero I-League is very good for me. So when Mohammedan Sporting approached me I asked around to know more about their rich history,” Jamal said to the-aiff.com. “They just earned promotion and now want to win the League. I felt that that is the kind of intent I want to play with, and that I can make an impact there. Looking forward to playing at Mohammedan.”
The Bangladesh captain has enjoyed a healthy rivalry with the Blue Tigers in International football, and boasts of a record where he was never lost to India on the three occasions when he played against his neighbouring country. Jamal feels a special motivation when it comes to playing against India on the International area.
“It’s always special to play against India, because India is like an elder brother to Bangladesh. And you always want to beat your elder brother when you play against him,” the Bangladesh captain laughed.
MARKING SUNIL CHHETRI
Looking back at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Joint Qualifier that was played in Kolkata last year, Jamal informed that the entire team was charged up ahead of the game.
“That day I sensed a different atmosphere in our camp when I woke up. Everybody wanted to do well against India. Right from the morning we were cheering each other up, telling everyone to pick up the essentials, do our morning stretches properly and be ready for the game. This match meant a lot to us,” he recalled.
“In the stadium, the galleries were already full by the time we had come in for our pre-game warmups. That’s when we felt that this is going to be a really good game. The crowd was amazing.”
The holding midfielder had played a crucial role for Bangladesh against the Blue Tiger in the game. While he was carrying out his duties in the heart of the midfield, Jamal also had the added task of marking his Indian counterpart and talismanic forward Sunil Chhetri.
“Sunil is an icon and a legend in India. He’s scored so many International goals, so we always had our eyes on him. The Coach and I spoke about the game and he told me, ‘You have to stop Sunil’,” recalled Jamal. “So I was focusing on not letting him get any chances. Whatever move he made, I went with him. My job that day was to cut him off from the rest and frustrate him.”
While the Bangladesh captain went about his duties neutralising Sunil Chhetri, he also managed to play a role in his side taking the lead in the first half, as he provided the assist for Saad Uddin to nod in a free kick. The Blue Tigers responded via Adil Khan in the second half, as the teams shared the spoils.
It was after that game that the charm of Kolkata and its football lovers struck Jamal, who had started off his career at Danish club Hellerup IK.
“Some of the fans recognised me when we were going around the city after the game. They came to me and told me about how well I had played. I was quite taken aback,” he added.
“I had initially felt that they would maybe throw taunts at me because I was on the opposing side. But they showed a lot of respect, and as a player, you really appreciate that.”
BACK TO THE ROOTS
Being from Bangladesh, the 30-year-old will look to settle quickly into life in Kolkata, as he feels that knowing Bengali will help him develop a connection with the local players. However, the Bangladesh captain also feels a deeper connect on his sojourn across the border.
“I think the environment and culture in Kolkata will be very similar to the one we experience back here in Bangladesh,” said Jamal. “My family used to stay in India before Independence,” said Jamal. “That was a long time back, but I am really looking forward to it as it will be kind of getting back to the roots as well.”
The 30-year-old has been a keen observer of Indian football in the past, and had been following the progress of one of his old friend from back in his days in Denmark – David Williams. However, the Bangladesh captain was quick to point out that the Australian is now at ATK Mohun Bagan, a club that Mohammedan Sporting consider rivals.
“I’ve been following the progress of David (Williams. We have been friends for some time. I like to follow his matches in the Hero ISL. But ATK Mohun Bagan is a rival club now, and I love rivalries,” laughed Jamal.