By Soumo Ghosh
AIFF Media Team
NEW DELHI: In the far reaches of the interiors of the Bankura district in West Bengal, football is a sport that enjoys immense popularity. Matches between local teams often draw a wholesome crowd. It would not have been more than a decade ago that a young boy named Jiten Murmu would go to these matches to support his favourite players.
Hailing from a tribal community, he was introduced to the beautiful game early on and is now set to lead the lines for Bhawanipore FC in the Hero I-League Qualifier 2020.
“It is incredible, now that I look back at my journey. We did not have a lot of means back then, but it was our belief and the love that my community shares for football, that eventually got me to where I am,” Murmu said to i-league.org.
“We used to play with kids a few years older than us, and that is how we quickly learnt how to make our way around the pitch. I’ll always be thankful to my community for the support I got with progressing in my career,” he continued.
“In fact, I want to win the Hero I-League Qualifier and dedicate the victory to my people. That’s what keeps driving me on at the moment. I’d love to see more kids coming out of the community and do well in football in the future. And if I can do my bit to inspire them to do so, I’d be more than happy,” he said.
Aiming to win the Hero I-League Qualifier 2020 and taking Bhawanipore FC will be looking to bring more glory to his people back home.
“My community has been so supportive of me through my formative years. Now, when I go back to my ancestral village, people are always excited. A lot of our family friends and acquaintances invite us to their homes and share a meal with them,” Murmu said with a smile.
The Bhawanipore forward has not always been privy to an easy life. The son of a railway gatekeeper, Murmu and his family had to shift to Belmuri village in the Hooghly district in West Bengal in his younger days.
“We did not have a lot of money back then, but I remember the day I got my first professional contract at East Bengal. Only my father knew, and I told the rest of my folks back home got to know only after I came back. They were so surprised and happy. I cannot describe the emotion. Financially, that was very helpful to our family.” Murmu reflected.
‘READY FOR THE NEW NORMAL IN FOOTBALL’
The Hero I-League Qualifier 2020 is set to be the first sporting activity to start in India after the lockdown that was placed on the country to curb the spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The onset of the pandemic has also brought about with it a number of changes to how football tournaments are conducted within the COVID safety bubble.
“There would not have been so many rules during normal times. But this is the new normal, and we have to get used to this and move forward together if we want to keep playing the beautiful game,” Murmu quipped.
“It feels a little different, but once the footballing action starts, what happens on the pitch will be all that matters, and we are concentrating on that.”
Having won the Calcutta Football League in 2019 with Peerless FC, and having played for all the three big clubs in Kolkata – East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan SC – Murmu will be looking to impart his experience to the youngsters in the squad.
“I always tell the young guys that giving 100 per cent on the pitch is all that matters. If we all work towards that in line with the strategies we have, we will stand a very good chance of qualifying for the Hero I-League,” he said.