The whole country used to wait for this event throughout the year. Anticipation with sheer excitement and expectation gripped the nation for days. Since morning, the line in front of Dhaka stadium ticket counters looked like a sea of humanity. The annual football face-off between Mohammedan and Abahani, the two most popular football teams in Dhaka used to be the grandest ever super bowl for impoverished Bangladesh. I still vividly recall one such evening of excitement. It is possibly a match-up 30 years ago. Incidentally it was also the evening of Shab e Barat. Saudi wahbism started flexing its muscle in Bangladesh from late seventies. Until then, Sufi influenced Milad Sharif, Shabe barat etc used to be quite a big thing in Bengali Muslim culture.
Ashraful, Shahriyar, Aftabs are national sporting icons now a days. It was Nannu, Manju those days. Nannu was the captain of Abahani and his brother Manju was Mohammedans captain. I still recall being glued to BTV live telecast of the game. I still recall, under roaring applause, two brothers Nannu and Manju shaking hands and exchanging club flag. Then the classic football of Nannu, Manju, Gaffar, Kohinoor, Amalesh, Abul, Enayet etc. Every household didn’t have TV in the 70s. So each drawing room with a TV set was filled with whole neighborhood. It was fun. Thunderous cheers with every goal or missed goal, tea, biscuits coming from different households, women gossiping in the backrooms. The scenario was much more electrifying inside Dhaka stadium. As soon as the game started, a group of very excited football fans across a 30 feet high barbed wire fence separating East and West gallery, used to start throwing brickbats and verbal abuses to each other. This then inevitably would spread in the vicinity of the stadium.
Football legend Nannu died today. He was 59 and was suffering from cancer and kidney failure. I had to write something on our extinct national craze, football and one of its best artists, Monwar Hossain Nannu.