Legendary Indian footballer Gostha Pal’s son, Nirangshu on Monday claimed that Mohun Bagan has ‘misplaced’ as many as eight awards of his father, including the prestigious Padma Shri.
On the 43rd death anniversary of his father, the 78-year-old Nirangshu and his family members Monday visited the club and as a mark of protest returned the Mohun Bagan Ratna that was awarded posthumously to Gostha Pal in 2004.
Nirangshu said his family members have been running from pillar to post since 1996, the 100th birth anniversary of Gostha Pal, to recover the awards but to no avail.
It was only last year that Nirangshu was called by a club official to "collect the items" of his father but to his horror he found most of the things were "destroyed in a bagful of cockroaches and lizards".
Terming it ‘sheer negligence’, Nirangshu said his family then decided to lodge a general diary at the Maidan Police Station regarding the misplaced items.
"But nothing has happened and so we decided to return them the Ratna as well," an emotional Nirangshu told PTI from his Paikpara residence.
Mohun Bagan treasurer Satyajit Chatterjee, who was handed over the Mohun Bagan Ratna this morning, insisted that the club has not misplaced it and said they would return the Padma shri award soon.
"They (Nirangshu and his family) had come and kept the Mohun Bagan Ratna at the club. We will get them back the old medals including Padma shri soon," Chatterjee told PTI.
Mohun Bagan later formed a six-member committee to investigate the issue and find the whereabouts of these prestigious materials, the club said in a statement.
Ground secretary Uttam Kumar Saha will be the convenor of the committee, comprising Satyajit Chatterjee, football secretary Swapan Banerjee, Mahesh Kumar Tekriwal, Sidhartha Roy and Manju Ghosh.
First Indian footballer to be honoured with the fourth highest civilian award in 1962, Gostha Pal’s "last wish" was to donate all his medals and citations to his club Mohun Bagan for a prospective museum that has not come up yet.
"He always told us that all his medals belong to Mohun Bagan, not us. So to fulfil his last wish we had donated about 19 items including Padma shri to the club in 1992," Nirangshu said.
"He thought the museum would become a source of income for the club but it never came up nor did they display them at the club.
"So after four years, on the occasion of his 100th birth anniversary, we had asked them back. Since then every year, I’ve been writing to them but there has not been any response."
Nirangshu said he was asked by the club to come and collect his father’s items one day but he was shocked at what he found.
"I was called by the club to collect the items only to see them kept in a jute bag full of cockroaches, lizards and torn certificates. And there was no Padmashree!," said Nirangshu, who is one among the four surviving children of Gostha Pal.
"Last year, I lodged a diary at Maidan Police Station but there was no outcome so finally we decided to give them the only possession that is left with us: the Mohun Bagan Ratna."
Gostha Pal had seven sons and three daughters.
A revered right back, Gostha Pal was compared with Great Wall of China for his defensive capabilities and served Mohun Bagan for 22 years.
His statue was erected in front of Eden Gardens in 1984 and the street, on which Mohun Bagan is also located, was named after him.
Gostha Pal became the fourth player to receive Mohun Bagan Ratna in 2004.