The Wall Bureau: Once upon a time wherever Shailene Manna became the chief guest, the topic would come up. He often spoke about the London Olympics in 1948. Seva’s Indian team went to play in London. That team was led by Tee Ao. Balaidas Chattopadhyay was the coach of that team.
India’s first game on that tour was against Myanmar. But war-torn Burma pulled out of the Olympics at the last minute. That is why India’s first match was against France. The game was played in Ilford, East London. The recently deceased Queen of England, Elizabeth II, was in the field to watch the game. Most of the Indian footballers played barefoot in that match. The opposing stars had boots on their feet.
Overwhelmed by the barefoot vs. boots battle, Rani was seen stepping on Shailene Mannad’s feet that day. To understand it at all is flesh and blood! Or iron legs. The legend of Indian football lived with that memory in his heart. Manna often talked about that experience.
Shailene Manna’s birthday was last September 1. And Rani died on September 8. Nilanjana, the ever-loving Mohanbagani Manna’s daughter, told The Wall on Friday, “I can’t tell you how many times I heard that incident from my father. Repeatedly said, the father had a sense of pride about the incident of pressing Rani’s feet. That picture with Rani is also on the wall of our house. Today I garlanded that picture again. Today is really our day of love, a day of pride.”
18 footballers went aboard to participate in the London Olympics. The federation has not yet deposited the FIFA membership fee. The AIFF was worried about whether it would be able to participate in the Olympics.
The Indian team played five warm-up matches in London before taking the field in the main event. 5 goals in these five matches! All Indian footballers played barefoot in that mega event. The Cricketfield Stadium was a match between booted vs bootless footballers. But the table of the two teams was the same, 2-3-5. René Courbin’s goal in the first half led France as expected.
India surprised everyone and returned to parity in the 70th minute. S Raman scored from a pass from Amed Khan and Bhajravelu’s brilliant one-two. In that game, the Indian team missed two penalties, one of which was by Shailene Manna. René Persilin scored the winning goal for France at the end.
Although not the result of the game, the fact that the Indians stepped on their feet at the end of the game shook the football world. Everyone was fascinated by that.