Kolkata, May 1: When Majid Bishkar came to Kolkata two years back, close to 200 East Bengal supporters were waiting for him at the airport.
Around the same number of fans thronged the club tent to greet him when the former Iranian World Cupper came to the club premises to be part of the club’s ongoing centenary celebrations.
Bishkar, a member of Iran's 1978 World Cup squad, mesmerised every East Bengal aficionado with his skill and off-field persona between 1980 to 1981, quickly attaining legendary status wearing the hallowed red and gold colours.
A proper No. 10, rare in Indian football back in the day, Bishkar bedazzled one and all with his wizardry with the ball and charming personality.
An attacking midfielder who also played as a forward in a 4-2-4 formation, Bishkar was the reason East Bengal won the Federation Cup in 1980, at a time star players had left the club en masse.
Having come to this part of the world to study at Aligarh University along with compatriot Jamshid Nassiri, Bishkar joined East Bengal in March, 1980. Bishkar and Nassiri would go on to form one of the most feared attacks of that decade.
Bishkar was an instant hit in the opening encounter of the Federation Cup where East Bengal defeated HAL (Bangalore) 2-0 with Bishkar and Nassiri getting on the scoresheet. The pattern continued in the second match against Mafatlal. It was another 2-0 win, with both finding the back of the net.
In the last match, East Bengal thrashed Dempo SC 3-0, thus clinching the top spot in their group with Bishkar capping off his man of the match performance with a goal and an assist.
In the semi-final, East Bengal took on a strong Punjab Police side, spearheaded by burly striker Manjit Singh. Bishkar's brilliance was once again the difference between the two sides as East Bengal ran out 4-1 winners (over two legs: 3-0 and 1-1).
The final of the Federation Cup was the derby against arch-rivals Mohun Bagan who had a dream team with arguably the best defensive pairing in the country with Subrata Bhattacharya and Pradip Chowdhury.
It also had a midfield with the likes of Prasun Banerjee and Goutam Sarkar. The star-studded forward line featured Shyam Thapa, Manas Bhattacharya, Bidesh Bose, and Xavier Pius.
Bishkar was deployed in a deeper role by then East Bengal coach P.K. Banerjee. The hard-fought tie ended in a 1-1 draw and the trophy was shared by the Kolkata giants as there was no system of tie-breaker at that time.
Bishkar's best performance was, however, reserved for the final three matches – the two semi-finals and the final of the Rovers Cup in Bombay (now Mumbai).
East Bengal trailed Mohun Bagan 0-2 at half time in the first semi-final at the Brabourne Stadium when Bishkar took up the cudgels in the second half and outwitted the entire Mohun Bagan defence with his magnificent ball control and dribbling skills.
Playing a quick one-two with Habib, he set up Nassiri to reduce the margin, and, a few minutes later, ran circles around the opponents' defence to score the equaliser.
Just before the final whistle, he almost scored the winner after outpacing six Mohun Bagan defenders, but his shot grazed past the post. In the replay, he dished out another sterling performance which facilitated Harjinder Singh to score a brace in East Bengal’s 2-1 triumph.
In the final, he was outstanding and scored a brilliant equaliser against Mohammedan Sporting. The teams shared the trophy after the 1-1 draw.
Bishkar maintained his good form in the following season too. He played imaginative football throughout and was primarily instrumental in East Bengal winning the IFA Shield (Joint) and Darjeeling Gold Cup. In the Shield final, he set up CB Thapa to score a magnificent goal after playing four wall-passes with others. At the Darjeeling Gold Cup too, he was unstoppable and was the main prop behind the Red and Golds 3-2 triumph over Mohun Bagan.
The following season, he joined Mohammedan Sporting and played for them till 1987.
Overall, Bishkar netted 33 goals for East Bengal. He has been undoubtedly the best foreigner not only to play for the blub but also on Indian soil. Indian football will always remember Bishkar as a peerless attacking midfielder who was skilful, intelligent and made everyone around him better.
In this edition of the 'SCEB Legends Collection', we celebrate the magic of Majid Bishkar.
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