A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject” – Winston Churchill.
Yes, a die-hard fan of sports can be described like this only. Saurav ‘Monty’ Guhathakurta is such a person who himself being a Football player loved the sport with all his heart and now travels across the globe to watch Football matches from the gallery.
The Whistle Blew…
It was in 1994 that Saurav had his first Football crush. It was the year when the mighty Brazilian team comprising of greats like Ronaldo, Romario, Bebeto and leader Dunga lifted the World Cup. Saurav was a teenager then who was mesmerised by the beautiful game and started loving it from the core.
“Then in 1999, when Manchester United won the treble under Alex Fergusson, I was even more motivated to play this sport.”
Football Journey Starts…
Saurav was a chubby-cheeked Indian boy who grew up in Oman. Though he wished to play Football, but his body structure was not suitable to play the sport. It was his father who best understood him at that point of time. Realising his son’s love for Football, Gautam Guhathakurta, encouraged his son to take up running along with him.
“I used to run with my father but realised that I have lesser stamina than my father. That shouldn’t be the correct picture. So, with all keenness, I reduced my weight, increased my stamina and then started to kick around in school.”
Football Remains Constant…
After finishing his school, Saurav moved to India for his college. In Mumbai, he joined a local team while doing his graduation. But while playing there, he sensed that he had stamina but not the perfect technical abilities to play the sport in next level.
“The players in that team were quite good and I found myself lagging behind. But I kept playing along with them day in and day out; on a surface made of stones, pebbles and not grass and practicing everyday for two hours along with drills.”
This hunger and self belief that he could become better at Football, made Saurav Guhathakurta improve his game at college. In one year’s time he was awarded the ‘Most Improved Player’ by the club for which he used to play. Next he went to Melbourne to study his Masters but his Football did not leave him. It was a new city with new people but Saurav’s talent did not go unnoticed.
“In Melbourne, I played with players of different nationalities like Germans, South Americans, Asians. I saw the techniques and styles of players from different countries which brought in more variation in my game. In the midst, whenever I came to Oman for my semester breaks, I got a chance to practice with local Football team Fanja that helped me to get even better education in Football from them.”
10-years of Playing Football…
Saurav a.k.a Monty played Football for 10 years in Dubai. It was a routine for him on every Friday to pack his Football kit and go to the field for playing matches. He generally played as a right back but in 7-aside matches he played as an attacker. It was an incredible journey for him. His mates admirably called him ‘Monty- The Warrior’ because of his ability to fight till the last whistle blow.
“I can proudly say that I had a strong foresight; I could easily read the ball. So that enabled me to participate in more tournaments for my side. That led to serious injuries but I came back and played the game again. So lot of my friends say that they admire my passion, my dedication for the game because according to them I came back as the same player who left the pitch when I got injured.”
A New Football Journey….
Saurav did come back after injuries but he understood that he could not push his knee further. So 8 years after his injuries he stepped back from active Football only to enjoy the moments that he had spent as a footballer.
“My vision was to travel to the best Football stadiums in Europe and so when I left playing I started to travel across countries. I visited some of the best stadia, some lesser-known Football dens and watched some memorable Football moments.”
Moments to Celebrate…
From Milan to Torrino to see Juventus playing at Alliaz Stadium, from Austria’s FC Red Bull Salzburg to Portugal’s Benfica and then to Catalunia’s small team Girona FC, Saurav Guhathakurta has savoured Football experiences.
“I have watched Messi scoring his 600th goal for FC Barcelona, the match played at Camp Nou against Liverpool. That was a historic moment. I also travelled to watch Neymar after his record-breaking transfer to Paris Saint Germain. I have also seen Indian Football team when I went to support Sunil Chhetri’s team playing at AFC Asian Cup in 2019 at Dubai.”
Saurav has with him more than 150 jerseys as mementos from wherever he travelled for Football. Most of his jerseys reflect some moments of Football like Manchester United’s red jersey that they wore during their UEFA Champions League final against Bayern Munich or the black jersey of Real Madrid with which they won the Champions League in 2000.
“I have also met several personalities like Robin Van Persie in Dubai when Manchester United were on their winter break; then I met the Italian great Francesco Totti, German World Cup winning captain Lothar Matthaus, Real Madrid President Florentino Perez and the biggest footballer whom I met was Ronaldinho. Meeting him was a ‘wow’ experience for me. I have also met our Indian great Sunil Chhetri. That was also fascinating as he is such an amazing player.”
Conveying the universal message…
Sports fanatics like Saurav Guha Thakurata and many others are waiting to go back to the stadium. The excitement, the goosebumps, the thrill and pleasure of watching sports from gallery are something that we all are missing. So let the world heal quickly, let things come back to normalcy as soon as possible, let the doors reopen… the stadiums are waiting for all the cheers and reverberations.
Till then let’s celebrate the moments that Saurav and more fans like him experience while in the stadiums.