Swadhin Bangla`s silent role in Bangladesh liberation war

Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi played soccer against them to raise money for a noble cause. Thespian Dilip Kumar watched them in action and donated Rs 20,000. They were allowed to play in Bihar only after furnishing an undertaking that they will not score goals.

Dhaka, May 28: Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi played soccer
against them to raise money for a noble cause. Thespian Dilip
Kumar watched them in action and donated Rs 20,000. They were
allowed to play in Bihar only after furnishing an undertaking
that they will not score goals.

These are a few of the interesting incidents the Swadhin
Bangla football team, that played a salient role in the
Bangladesh liberation war, encountered when they toured India
in 1971 to secure funds for the ongoing Mukti Joddha
(independence struggle).

The Swadhin Bangla football team was formed by a few
players led by Mohammad Zakaria Pintu to finance the Mukti
Joddhas (freedom fighters), fighting an uphill battle against
the Pakistan government.

Recalls Pinto: "The Nawab not only played, but he also
came forward to personally donate Rs 30,000. We still savour
the incident," said Pintu, now 67.

The entire team was floored by the positive vibes they
received from the Indian government. "We could never forget
the response we got form the people".

In Mumbai, the Swadhin Bangla football team was also
surprised to find Dilip Kumar seated in the VIP enclosure.

"He was then shooting for Sagina Mahato. He got the shooting
canceled for a day and came to watch the game," Pintu said.

"You will succeed," Dilip Kumar told Pintu and the other
players after the match and donated Rs 20,000.

The side toured various parts of India and played 16
matches, raising Rs five lakh which was utilised in purchasing
arms and ammunition for the liberation struggle.

"Our emotions were running high. It was a mission for us.
We were playing soccer to free our country," he said.

Pintu recounted how they escaped being beaten black and
blue in Bihar.

"Some Biharis had been murdered in East Pakistan (now
Bangladesh). So, the Biharis were very agitated. We just won`t
be allowed to play in Bihar. Finally we secured permission to
play on the soil of Bihar by giving an undertaking that we
won`t score any goal," he recalled.

But a long clearance by a Swadhin Bangla defender caught
the local side off-guard and entered the goal.

"Immediately we were gheraoed, and but for the timely
intervention of the police, we wouldn`t have returned in one
piece," said Pintu, who had a 15-year stint with Dhaka
Mohammedan from 1961 to 1976.

In Mumbai, the Swadhin Bangla football team was also
surprised to find Dilip Kumar seated in the VIP enclosure.

"He was then shooting for Sagina Mahato. He got the shooting
canceled for a day and came to watch the game," Pintu said.

"You will succeed," Dilip Kumar told Pintu and the other
players after the match and donated Rs 20,000.
The side toured various parts of India and played 16
matches, raising Rs five lakh which was utilised in purchasing
arms and ammunition for the liberation struggle.

"Our emotions were running high. It was a mission for us.
We were playing soccer to free our country," he said.

Pintu recounted how they escaped being beaten black and
blue in Bihar.

"Some Biharis had been murdered in East Pakistan (now
Bangladesh). So, the Biharis were very agitated. We just won`t
be allowed to play in Bihar. Finally we secured permission to
play on the soil of Bihar by giving an undertaking that we
won`t score any goal," he recalled.

But a long clearance by a Swadhin Bangla defender caught
the local side off-guard and entered the goal.

"Immediately we were gheraoed, and but for the timely
intervention of the police, we wouldn`t have returned in one
piece," said Pintu, who had a 15-year stint with Dhaka
Mohammedan from 1961 to 1976.

Bureau Report

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