Fans brave heat to bid farewell to Barreto

Kolkata: Less than 24 hours after the entire Kolkata cheered for Sourav Ganguly, more than 30,000 turned up to bid an emotional farewell to Jose Ramirez Barreto in Mohun Bagan jersey as the Yuba Bharati Krirangan resembled a mini Eden Gardens here this afternoon.

Withstanding the scorching afternoon sun, the die-hard Barreto supporters chanted his name. The player also made his last match memorable leading the side with aplomb with a sixth minute goal against Pune FC in their last-round I League match.

Barreto developed cramps after the interval but he played the full 90 minutes as the crowd enjoyed every moment of it.

Barreto had come with his entire family and his wife Veronica, daughters Isabella, Natalia and three-year-old son also cheered for the Brazilian who had debuted for the club way back in 1999-2000 season.

The Barretos, surrounded by club officials and few supporters who sneaked in the cordons, made a round of the stadium at the break as emotions ran sky-high.

The vibrant atmosphere brought back the memories of the match between Sourav Ganguly-led Pune Warriors against Kolkata Knight Riders which had been the talk of the town till last evening.

Earlier, Pune FC showed a fine gesture when they presented an autographed jersey to Barreto.

State sports minister Madan Mitra handed the stalwart Rs one lakh from the West Bengal Sports Council for his contribution to the sport in the state in a 20-minute felicitation ceremony that preceded the match.

Hundreds of balloons with `Barreto` written on them were released into the sky. He even kicked about 30 balls to the crowd during the break.

The Brazilian had landed all the way from Port Alegre way back in 1999 as his first tenure at the green and maroons. From 1999 till he left the club five seasons later was the best of times for Kolkata football with Mohun Bagan and East Bengal winning the NFL twice each.

That`s the time when he made a name for himself but he had to leave in 2004 when some club officials misbehaved with him and showcaused him for not playing `properly`.

But he returned two seasons later -- following stints at Malaysia`s Pelang FA and now disbanded Mahindra United in Mumbai.

Barreto has played 397 matches for the green and maroon brigade, scoring a total of 227 goals. His first came against Dempo way back on January 17, 2000. In the National League Barreto scored 93 goals in 187 matches.

He scored 10 hat-tricks and netted 17 goals against Bagan`s arch-rivals East Bengal. He has been the top-scorer of a tournament 10 times.

However, in the National League, he was the top-scorer only once. That was in 2000-01 and he got 14 goals.

Barreto, however, is not retiring from football as he has said he would like to continue for some more time but yet to decide which club to play next.

The Brazilian is reportedly in talks with Bhowanipore Club for a player cum coach role in the Calcutta Football League Premier Division next season.