It was way back in the 1970s. Legend has it that star forward and Arjuna Awardee Mohammed Habib was en route to Kolkata on the Coromandel Express along with his brother, advisor, and fellow footballer Habib Akbar. They were with Mohun Bagan official RK Tiwari - who had already agreed terms and presented a cheque to Mohammed Habib as a signing fee. East Bengal caught wind of this. The influential pair of club officials Jiban Chakraborty and Paltu Das - fondly known as ‘Jeep’ as a combination of their first names and the vehicle they drove - swung into action to stop the signing.
“Along with some other club supporters, they hopped onto the train at Burdwan station. Tiwari had alighted to buy something, when East Bengal asked Habib to get off the train and come with them. Habib said that he was going to sign with Bagan, and that already had a cheque ready to encash,” remembers football historian and East Bengal official Gautam Roy.
The officials saw that it was a Central Bank cheque - of the same branch that had caught fire some time back. “They told Habib that he will never receive this money, and also spoke of how there was some ‘golmaal’ in Kolkata, so it was a better idea to come with them.”
Habib took the bait, got off, and East Bengal had managed one of the quickest coups in transfer history.
The Indian football transfer market had always been a glorious mix of romance and cunning, fact and folklore.
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About the Writers
Pulasta is a football commentator and award-winning sports writer. He has worked for the All India Radio, BBC Leicester, The Post Newspapers-Zambia, Firstpost, Mint Lounge & Scroll among others.@TheFalseNo9
Adnan Bhat is an independent journalist. He regularly writes for The Wire, The Quint, Ozy, among others. @adnanmbhat