He was a part of history when ATK (then Atletico de Kolkata) lifted the inaugural Indian Super League (ISL) title in 2014. But six years down the line, footballer Biswajit Saha is struggling to make ends meet with his fast food joint close to shutting shop in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Without a club since 2018 when a severe hamstring injury during pre-season ruled him out of Mumbai City FC's ISL campaign, left-back Saha has been plotting a return to the sport. But since it was taking time, the 34-year old who played all of ATK's league matches except the semifinal and final in their 2014 campaign, had opened a fast food joint with his brother near his home in Bandel in Hooghly district of West Bengal.
Amid pandemic footballer, Biswajit Saha turns to his food stall
"I did not play professional football after 2018. I was in Valencia (Spain) with the Mumbai City FC team for pre-season and there I got injured badly. We were supposed to return to Mumbai the next day, but I got injured the day before," Saha told IANS on Thursday.
"There was a Super Cup that year. I played one match, coming on as a second-half substitute. 2018 was wasted, and after that I took time to recover. It was then that my brother and I decided to open this fast food centre to run the family," said Saha who is married with two daughters.
Saha, although nearing the twilight of his career, is practising now and feels he is in good shape. The plan was to take part in the Calcutta Football League (CFL) but with the COVID-19 induced lockdown bringing the world to a standstill, his desire to make a comeback seems a distant dream as of now.
"The lockdown has spoiled everything. The shop is not doing great. There are very few customers due to the health crisis. As far as making a comeback is concerned, I was working hard but I am not getting any younger. This (period of no football activity) will dent my chances further," said Saha who has also played for Mohun Bagan, Salgaocar and Sporting Clube de Goa in the I-League after bursting onto the scene playing for George Telegraph.
Saha's fortunes haven't quite smiled on him since the 2014 ISL high. On loan at Sporting Clube de Goa, he was retained by ATK only for the franchise to turn their back later, leaving him in the lurch.
"I had rented the fast food shop before Durga Puja last year. The rent is all we have (to run the family). I have nothing else to do at the moment. My two daughters are six years and three years old," said Saha.
"I also have plans of taking up coaching. But at the moment, it is too far from reality it seems. I want to get back to playing top-flight football. Take part in the CFL, and then maybe the I-League. I would have made headway had this lockdown not come in between and spoiled everything. Now, we are struggling to make ends meet," the footballer concluded.