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Ajay Srimani is a legendary name in the Kolkata club football. He was called one of the most proficient and skilled administrators in Maidan, the fondly named place where the Kolkata Football League takes place generally.
Ajay Srimani who hails from a rich family in Kolkata was the football secretary of East Bengal and he is remembered during the club’s golden period of 1970 to 1975 when East Bengal was conquering the whole of India by winning almost the trophies. East Bengal won five consecutive Kolkata League titles during this period, courtesy the legendary former footballers like Sudhir Karmakar, Gautam Sarkar, Surajit Sengupta, and Subhash Bhowmick whose contribution was on the field and Srimani’s role was off-the-field considering the caring of those stars. Even at the age of 90, he still remembers every detail.
In 1949 at the age of 16 Ajay Srimani became a member of the East Bengal Club and regularly witnessed the club matches. In 1966 on Bengali New Year’s Day, somebody came to him and told him that Sri J.C Guha wanted to meet him. Sri Guha told him to start working for the club taking permission from his mother. That was the beginning when Ajoy Srimani was included in the club committee.
In 1968 due to some misunderstanding, Sri Guha removed him from the committee.
“I was in tears when Jyotish-da removed me and thought of never going back in club administration,”
said Sri Srimani but Jotirmoy Sengupta and S K. Biswas pulled him back into the committee headed by Dr. Nripen Das after they won the election in 1969 defeating Sri J.C. Guha.
The Transition in Life
Ajay Srimani was given the responsibility of looking after the football team and he engaged Jiban Chakrabarty and Dipak (Paltu) Das to assist him against a monthly remuneration of Rs 800 which Sri Srimani revealed that he gave from his pocket. In 1972 he became the football secretary. East Bengal made a dream team that year recruiting Mohan Singh from BNR, Gautam Sarkar from Khidirpore, Akbar and Latifuddin from Md Sporting, and P. K. Banerjee as a coach. East Bengal became the first club in India to win the Triple Crown. At the end of the season, Ajay Srimnai presented all the players with a gold ring in the name of his mother.
The Decline of Srimani
In 1975 when the club was on the verge of creating a new record of winning CFL six times in a row, Habib and Akbar signed for Mohammedan Sporting under the influence of Ziauddin, the then-AIFF president. Dr. Das, presuming that this is the failure of Ajay Srimani, removed him from the Football Secretary’s post.
Dhiren Dey, on hearing this, invited Sri Srimani to take charge of the Mohun Bagan team which he denied. IFA president Biswanath Dutta came forward and nominated him as the Governing body member of the IFA and CAB umpire’s panel committee where he served till the late 80s.
The Expert Observation of Srimani
Srimani smiles when he notices East Bengal’s current officials fail to manage the players and also fail in recruiting quality footballers. He said,
“You need to understand the game. Otherwise, you cannot assess the player’s quality and you need to have a flexible temperament. Otherwise, you cannot care for your best footballer and bring the best out of him in a match. The present-day officials lack these qualities.”