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Former India footballer Surajit Sengupta dies at 70 after Covid-19

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Surajit Sengupta played two Asian Games and for all top Kolkata clubs with his best coming at East Bengal from 1974-79




Former India forward and East Bengal star Surajit Sengupta died here on Thursday following complications after a severe Covid-19 infection. He was 70 and is survived by wife Shyamali, son Snighadeb and daughter-in-law Keka. Admitted to a city hospital on January 23 with respiratory distress, a history of ischemic heart illness and Parkinson’s disease, Sengupta was on ventilator support. His death comes 26 days after his club and country teammate Subhas Bhowmick’s passing. 

Sengupta played in the 1974 and 1978 Asian Games. He scored two goals in the 1978 Games, one each against Bangladesh and Kuwait. His India debut came in the 1974 Merdeka Cup and that Sengupta played 14 internationals in a club career that spanned over 10 years was proof more of how irregular India games were in that time than his ability. Bhowmick, whose India career had 24 games, would often say Sengupta’s dribbling prowess and goalscoring ability exceeded his. 

Proof of how dangerous the two were came in the 1975 IFA Shield final when Bhowmick ran rings around Mohun Bagan and Sengupta scored the first of the five goals for East Bengal. It remains the biggest margin of victory in the Kolkata derby. Sengupta had joined coach PK Banerjee’s all-conquering East Bengal team of the early 1970s one year earlier. He captained East Bengal in 1978 when they won the Durand Cup, IFA Shield, Federation Cup and the Bordoloi Trophy beating Port Authority Bangkok 4-2; Sengupta scoring twice in the final. In five years as a red-and-gold player, Sengupta also won the Kolkata league and IFA Shield double thrice (1974, 75, 76), Rovers Cup (1975) and the Darjeeling Gold Cup (1976). East Bengal gave Sengupta their lifetime achievement award in 2018. 

Sengupta’s career began at Kolkata’s Khidirpur Club and he joined Mohun Bagan in 1972 which was also the first time he and Bhowmick played together. Sengupta returned to Mohun Bagan in 1980 and stayed with them till retiring from football in 1983. With Mohun Bagan, he won the Calcutta league (1983), Federation Cup in 1981 and 1982, Sait Nagjee Gold Cup (1981) and the Darjeeling Gold Cup (1982). He also played a season for Mohammedan Sporting in 1980, winning the Sikkim Gold Cup, DCM Trophy and Rovers Cup (joint-winners with East Bengal). Sengupta scored 147 club goals, 92 for East Bengal and 54 for Mohun Bagan and one for Mohammedan Sporting. He also had 26 goals in four successive victorious Santosh Trophy campaigns (1975-78) for Bengal. 

Till he gave that up, Sengupta was a banker in his day job. He quit to join Bangla newspaper Aajkaal full time working as a pundit and an administrator. After Bhowmick’s death on January 22, Sengupta had written a tribute in the paper. Years after retiring as a player, Sengupta learnt singing with his son. He also played the tabla well enough to perform publicly, sometimes with Snighadeb. It was because of his varied interests and the fact the he always wore a beard that Banerjee would call Sengupta Socrates, after the Brazil captain and midfielder.

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