Throughout football history great teams have often been defined by the telepathic partnership existing between two or more players. From Pele-Garrincha to modern era’s Xavi-Iniesta there have been a number of such memorable partnerships. Indian football, thanks to its long history has borne witness to some famous partnerships of its own. The partnership between Bhaduri brothers of Mohun Bagan’s famous 1911 IFA Shield winning team was the first well documented partnership in Indian football history; many footballers have followed their steps since then.
(This is not an exhaustive list)
Shibdas Bhaduri – Bijoydas Bhaduri
Some of the ancient houses in Northern part of Kolkata have played an important role in the history of Mohun Bagan. One of them is Bipradas Kutir – the house of Bhaduris, two among whom – Shibdas and Bijoydas played crucial parts in the club’s historic triumph in IFA Shield in 1911.
Each of the five brothers in the Bhaduri family had a knack for football and Mohun Bagan. Shibdas and Bijoydas picked up their initial training from another great of that era, Dukhiram Majumdar, before joining Mohun Bagan. Desperate to triumph in IFA Shield, Shibdas Bhaduri was made the captain of Mohun Bagan in 1911 and it was he who assembled the team which was later named “Immortal XI“.
One of Shibdas’ most inspired moves was to find a replacement for center-forward Donga Dutta, an established name at that point. Dutta’s replacement was Abhilash Ghosh, who scored the winner in the final against East Yorkshire Regiment.
Growing up and learning the game together had inculcated a mutual understanding between the Bhaduri brothers which was second to none in that era. Playing in a classical 2-3-5 system, they played on the left side of front five – Shibdas as a left outside forward and Bijoydas as left inside forward. They would often switch positions in a match and outfoxed opponent markers due to similarity of their looks.
Nicknamed “Mr.Slippery” in Kolkata maidan due to his dribbles and ability to get past opponent defenders, Shibdas Bhaduri was one of the most skilled players in the team while his elder brother relied more on position and link-up play. The contrasting style of play made them even more lethal on the left flank and the pair contributed immensely in every match Mohun Bagan played in 1911 IFA Shield. Fittingly, Shibdas Bhaduri scored and assisted the goals Mariners scored in the final.
Shibdas Bhaduri was the first member of Immortal XI to pass away, in 1932. However, the Bhaduri brothers’ great contribution to the club will remain etched permanently in memory of millions of Mohun Bagan fans.
Goutam Sarkar – Samaresh Chowdhury
In the long and illustrious history of Kolkata derby two players have carved a niche in terms of pure grit and tenacity. First one was “Bade Miyan” Mohammad Habib, second was Goutam Sarkar.
Such was Sarkar’s bravado and tackling ability that he was referred to as Indian Beckenbauer during his peak years. Sarkar was not just a good tackler, he was also had an impressive passing range and was known to pop in with crucial goals time to time. His partner Samaresh “Pintu” Chowdhury was one of the most popular and skillful central midfielders in India in 1970s. Chowdhury didn’t have Sarkar’s grit or determination but he made up for it by being a supreme organizer and wonderful eye for killer passes.
The Goutam-Samaresh partnership reached its zenith between 1972 and 1975 during East Bengal’s golden period. Chowdhury was already part of East Bengal when Goutam Sarkar joined them in 1972 and for next three years the duo would dominate every team in India. Playing as the central midfielders in a 4-2-4 partnership, Goutam Sarkar would perform the role of snatching as well as pushing up for attacks while Chowdhury would play as linkman and pick out his team mates with metronomic passing.
Both Sarkar and Chowdhury donned the Green & Maroon as well as Red & Gold jerseys in their careers. Chowdhury became East Bengal captain in 1974 while Sarkar was given that honour two years later. A testimony to Sarkar’s leadership abilities was the fact that he was the first player to captain both the major clubs in Kolkata after he was made Mohun Bagan captain in 1983. Sarkar would forge another famous partnership in Mohun Bagan with Prasun Banerjee.
Majid Baskar – Jamshed Nasiri
Though weren’t the first foreigners to play in India, the Iranian pair of Baskar-Nasiri was unarguably the most successful pairing of their day. A member of Iran’s 1978 World Cup squad, Majid Baskar is universally considered as one of the best, if not the best foreigner to have played football in India. A supporting striker/attacking midfielder of supreme skills, Majid Baskar became a cult figure for both East Bengal and Mohammedan SC fans during his short and addiction laden football career. Born with the ability to dribble with both feet Baskar could score wonder goals on his own as well as set up his team mates. He was not a quick player in general but had a burst of acceleration with the ball in his feet.
His partner Nasiri was a contrast in more than one way. Nasiri didn’t have Majid’s natural flair but he made up for it with his hard work, professionalism and dedication. As a result of all this he would have a longer career than his compatriot and won more trophies. Tall and strong, Nasiri was an ideal target man and center forward. He was also a prolific scorer and top scored in Calcutta Football league in 1985 with 17 goals. Nasiri was an ideal striker pairing for Baskar. He would hold off opponent defenders and knock down crosses for his agile and skillful partner and this proved to be a successful tactic during their peak years. Sadly, their partnership didn’t last for long due to Majid’s addiction problem which would curtail his career prematurely.
IM Vijayan – Jo Paul Ancheri
The Keralite duo were perhaps the last successful All-Indian pairing and undoubtedly the most famous one of past three decades. Both players hail from Thrissur district in Kerala and knew each other well before they started playing together. Vijayan, four years older than Ancheri, was already a star with the legendary Kerala Police team in late 1980s when Ancheri started his senior career. The duo started playing together in 1994 when Ancheri joined Mohun Bagan, where Vijayan was already playing. The rest, as they say, is history.
In Mohun Bagan the pair won Kolkata League, Durand Cup and IFA Shield before switching over to the ambitious JCT FC the following year. Bankrolled by an ambitious industrialist, JCT had assembled one of the strongest teams in India and Vijayan-Ancheri joined the likes of Baichung Bhutia and Tejinder Kumar.
Trophies soon followed – back to back Federation Cups as well as the first ever National Football League. In 1997, the pair travelled back home, joining FC Kochin, India’s first professional football club. A year later, they once again returned to Mohun Bagan. The duo was not just successful at the club level but showed glimpses of their talent for the national team, though trophies were hard to come by.
What made the pair successful was their abundant natural talent. Vijayan is undoubtedly the most complete Indian striker of the past few decades and he could score goals from anywhere in opponent’s half – a rare ability. Ancheri, on the other hand was the finest all-rounder Indian football had seen since Yusuf Khan in 1960s. He would excel anywhere he was fielded, in defence or in attack. Multiple injuries hampered his career which could have scaled even greater heights.
Beto – Ranty Martins
The cornerstones most successful club in recent times, Dempo SC, were a clutch of talented Indian players along with the deadly Brazilian-Nigerian combo of Beto and Ranty Martins. Before moving to Goa, Beto had an unsuccessful stint at Mohun Bagan. At Bagan, the Brazilian was used as a main striker and he struggled, given his lack of poacher’s instinct. When he moved to Dempo the wily Armando Colaco instantly recognized his talent and began to use him just behind the main striker, in a free role. The Brazilian hit the ground running as Dempo began their unstoppable rise to the top.
Beto’s playing position can be defined by the Italian term “trequartista” – playing in space between his team’s main striker and opponent defence. The Brazilian has a great eye for through balls and is excellent from set-pieces. He also possesses good work-rate and rarely has a bad game.
Nigerian Ranty Martins was his ideal foil. Ranty is fast, strong and has excellent positional sense. One of the most prolific scorers in Indian football, Ranty Martins is a stereotype player for the lone striker role. His understanding with Beto is one of the main reasons why he has finished as top scorer in I-League for most of the seasons since he started out with Dempo. The greatest hour for this pair’s exploits came in 2010-11 season when Dempo thrashed Air India 14-0, a record in top level of Indian football. Ranty Martins scored 7 goals, another new record, with Beto following him with 4 goals of his own.
The pair has since gone different ways. Beto moved to local rivals Churchill Brothers while Ranty Martins joined Prayag United at the start of 2012-13 season. It remains to be seen if the pair reunite sometime in future.