' Hi Prakash: I was trying to get some material about MAC thru the net! Obviously it was well known only during the pre-internet days. I guess your memory would take care of this lapse! How about giving me your story? It will be fun to talk about them after 50 years or so, I think it will be a good addition to our soccer history, of which very little is written!'
Nice of him to respond promptly and it did not surprise me that he had such a good recall about those days! He has a phenomenal memory! Here is his story:
A good idea to write about something which lives only in the memory of those who were part of it and those who were fortunate to have been spectators around that time. The numbers of all these are sadly depleting as time goes by.
I will give what I can recall from my perspective as a spectator. Probably Prasad and others like the ex_India goalkeeper S.S.Narayan (Babu) can give more exact idea as to when MAC started its initial years and the highlights.
My earliest memory was seeing K.P. coaching a group of about 15-20 boys on an empty plot of land beside Amulakh Amichand School (R.A.Kidwai Road) just below where the harbour line train to/from Wadala to King's Circle used to pass. This was if I recall correctly about 1954 (I was only 10 at that time). All those who were being coached were Tamils and K.P. was using only Tamil and I could not even understand what he used to say.
However, I remember seeing all the boys standing in a circle about 40 Metres in diameter with K.P. in the centre and he would give the ball to one and have them passing the ball to his directions and the accent was on 'trapping' the ball and passing immediately thereafter along the ground with accuracy.
The passing would be alternated between both feet. A torrent of abuse would usually follow if anyone 'passed' in the air. This would be followed by passing through 'headers'. Then there would be groups of 3 boys who would be forwards going against 3 defenders and here again they were expected to pass the ball among themselves without having the defenders getting a touch on the ball.
I recall seeing Prasad, Ananthram, R.P.Narayan, M.K.Shanker, Babu Narayan and the youngest a kid named L.L.Mayurnathan who later became M.Rajan.(Babu Narayan was playing for Tata's but he was coming to support K.P. as I recall)
MAC was like many football teams of that time without their own 'club' or ground and was registered probably at K.P.'s residence. Football from high school level upwards in Bombay of those days was being actively supported and promoted by 2 people - Fr. Sean Mcferran of Don Bosco and K.Ziauddin of Anjuman-e-Islam. Ziauddin went on to head Bombay's Football Leagues and also became an office bearer (Hon.Secretary) of the All India Football Federation.
I have digressed from MAC because it was these sort of guys who allowed MAC to join the lower leagues of Bombay's Football playing at St.Xavier's Gymkhana ground at Parel. Fr.Mcferran was the one who allowed MAC to practice in the Don Bosco School grounds. Their practice pitch was bang in front of my house and I would see them from my balcony, sitting on the School wall or from the ground itself.
They used to have practice matches on the main soccer pitch with various teams. I have a recollection of one of their matches around 1958 or 1959 with Caltex who were a First Division team. The reason for the recollection is that one of the Caltex players was a player called Pavithran who had represented India at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.
I remember that the hallmark of their play was their passing the ball around without using the aerial route except when the 'wingers' would cross the ball into the penalty area for Shanker to do the rest.
Prasad used to be the 'workhorse' not only in the passing bouts, but, also in 'dribbling' the ball to draw the defenders and provide Shanker the space to score. I distinctly recall the totally unflustered play of R.P.Narayan in the middle of the field collecting the ball regained by guys like Ananthram (a fearless tackler) and then driving towards the opponents goal. Very rarely one saw a 'wild' clearance from the defenders as the ball was usually passed to another in the middle of the field.
MAC progressed quite rapidly from the lower leagues to the B Division. The B Division (2nd Tier) teams were allowed to go through qualifying for the Rovers Cup which at that time could be called as the 'Blue Riband" of Indian Football along with the Durand Cup. The top teams in the Rovers Cup were Tata's, Caltex, Western Railway from Bombay, Mohan Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting from Calcutta among others.
MAC managed to qualify to the main draw of the Rovers Cup from the B division I think twice! (Prasad please correct me if I am mistaken). Their high point was in reaching the semi-finals in Rovers cup. I remember my classmate Robin Chakravarthy played as left winger in that match. I cannot recall the year but I think it was either 1960 or 1961.
While Prakash does remember most of the details, I reproduce Prasad's version:
(Hi Nidhi: I did not think one would have such vivid memories almost 50years back. Prakash's recollection of the practice sessions we had are almost correct. There are a few corrections however: The team won the lower division in Parel in 1958 and were allowed to participate in the Rovers cup. We did take part in the Rovers cup in 1958 and lost to a team from Bangalore TDE, an army outfit in the second round.
But the next year in 1959 when we participated in the Harwood league in Cooperage we beat the Indian Navy team in the first round round of the
Rovers cup, beat the TDE team from Bangalore in the second round and in the q-finals met Mohan Bagan.
The first game ended in a draw, thanks mainly because of free kick Shankar took from outside the box who let loose a scorcher of a kick directly into the goal. Sett the Mohan Bagan goalkeeper who also represented India did not see the ball enter the net. The next day during the replay Mohan Bagan scored first and Shanker equalized to make it 1-1. Midway during the second half I got a pass from RP and was able to avoid a defender and scored the goal which happened to be the winning goal. We lost to Mohamaden Sporting in the S-final.)
To continue with Prakash; After 1961 the team lost guys like Shanker,Prasad. I think R.P.Narayan had to stop playing from 'knee' problems. R.P.'s brothers Bala and Seshadri came in along with Shivram Iyer, K.N.Sastry, SVS Mani (goalie), Tahir Merchant (Rashid's brother), Sudhir Chodnekar and others along with the old hands M.Rajan and Rashi Merchant.
Gradually MAC went into decline.MAC had the misfortune that it was the dream of one man, K.P.,and with declining health and total paucity of funds and without any 'structure' to sustain it despite the 'beautiful' football they displayed on the fields it had to go into decline. .....Prakash
( Prasad adds: After the season many of us left MAC. RP joined Caltex, Shankar, Rajan and I joined Mafatlal. After one year I joined Caltex and played for two years and then left for Sweden at which point I retired....)
(Prasad sent me the pictures and said: "They were taken by press photographers and are mostly from the times I played for Mafatlal and Caltex!" They are still relevant as they belong to that period!)
While I cannot recall details like Prakash, I do remember the impact the very young team made as they entered the field in their smart outfits. You could see that they were a disciplined lot! It is no mean feat that they beat a top team like the Mohan Bagan! This really created waves amongst the soccer fans.
I believe that K P could have contributed much more as a coach training legions of players over the years, similar to Nick Boleteri in tennis. It is a pity that this did not happen in a big scale, but many of the players he trained were later picked up by the top teams in the senior league and most of them played for the State and a few represented India. There could have been more!
I guess that this would have happened if he had changed his ways a bit and had encouraged his players to get on to the bigger stage and participate in the national arena sooner. I had heard that he discouraged his players from going for trials for the state when they were in their prime. We know such things happen with coaches. They cannot let go!
But it does not take away the very signal contribution he made for soccer and the very positive influence he had on a group of educated young kids! It is certain that the discipline drilled into them helped! They learnt to have a better focus and did very well in their lives!
I hope to get more inputs about the team and more blog a real tribute a group of youngsters and their dedicated coach.
On a personal note: my dear uncle and Prasad's father, B V S Iyengar, made it a point to attend almost all the games played at the Cooperage. He was very proud of his son and his team mates. I was a witness to this whenever I had the privilege to be with him at the members stand! He would be totally involved with the game! A true and a passionate soccer fan.
It is also satisfying to write about my big brother Prasad. Years ago he found out that he was a month or so older and claimed seniority! He also played Basketball at the national level and played for India as well! It is maninly due to him that I started playing Basketball and into playing sports, which luckily I still do!
I remember fondly the times we spent together in Bangalore, when he and his friends, Anantram, T A Bala and Chellappa came for an extended visit. I visited Anantram while he was working in London and sadly he left us while very young. Recently his daughter Priya moved to Bangkok, she and her husband Shrikanth are very dear to us and I am reminded of Anataram whenever Priya smiles.....Nidhi
Pictures of Anantram Priya sent me, hope we will find some on the soccer field!