Sailendra Nath Manna, a saint among footballers, died on February 27th, aged 87
THE game of football regularly produces playboys, celebrities, racists, billionaires, fashion models and spoilt brats. What it does not produce is saints; with one exception. When Sailen Manna died, 2,000 people followed his body to the Keoratala burning ghat in Kolkata, on the banks of the Hooghly river that flows out of the Ganges. They acknowledged they had lost rather more than a decent player.
With Manna-da—third from left above—tall and strong in defence, newly independent India almost beat France at the London Olympic games in 1948. Under his captaincy, it won its first international football gold medal at the Asian games in 1951. For a very short while, in his time, it walked in the sun as a world-class footballing nation. And it walked barefoot, because, in those years, that was how Mr Manna and his colleagues played.
Yes, he acknowledged later, it often hurt. Bare feet were all very well on the thin, baked surface of the vast Maidan at the centre of Kolkata, where his club, Mohun Bagan AC, had its playing field, and where the worst hazards were straying goats and glass. But on an early away trip to Maharashtra he noted with horror that his rivals had boots, and knew how to use them. In the waning years of Empire, British and Anglo-Indian teams were the worst, aiming for his knees and ankles, or simply trampling him. He lost track of the times his toenails were uprooted. Anklets and plasters helped, or sometimes socks. Pain was muted by the joy of beating the go rasahibs at their own game.
当然，他后来承认光脚踢球经常疼得厉害，不过也因地而异。在加尔各答市中心广阔的麦丹（Maidan）公园的草地稀疏炙热，在那里赤脚踢球尚无大碍。曼纳的球队莫罕巴干俱乐部（Mohun Bagan AC）在那里训练，最倒霉不过是踩到山羊粪或者玻璃碴儿。然而，有一次他们去马哈拉施特拉邦（Maharashtra）比赛，对手都是穿球鞋的而且用鞋对付赤脚的莫罕巴干队。多年后回忆起来，他仍心有余悸。大英帝国日渐削弱的年代，英国队和那些英印混血儿队的球风最为下作，对准他的膝盖和脚踝踢，或者直接踩上一脚。他不得不连根拔掉脚趾甲，具体是什么时候，他已经不记得了。护踝套和创可贴长带在身上，有时候穿上袜子也可以缓解疼痛。每当在“白人老爷”的地盘赢了球，他满心喜悦，丝毫不知道痛了。
The reasons for the naked feet varied, even in his own mind. Like most Bengali boys, he could not dream of affording boots. There was no money in football then; Mohun Bagan did not pay him, and he had to buy the maroon and green strip with his own hard-earned cash. But when pretty Princess Margaret asked him whether he wasn’t afraid to play that way, as he balanced a sandwich and a cup of tea at Buckingham Palace after the team’s glorious 1-2 Olympic loss to booted France, he would not mention poverty. They just preferred it, he told her. It was easier to keep the ball under control.
他赤脚足球原因是各种各样的，甚至曼纳脑子里也有多种版本。像大多数孟加拉邦的孩子一样，他不敢奢望能买得起球鞋。那时候，足球运动员没有钱赚；曼纳在莫罕巴干俱乐部没有工资，他的茶色和绿色条纹队服也是用自己的血汗钱买的。印度队在奥运会上1比2虽败犹荣输给穿鞋的法国队后，他有幸在白金汉宫（Buckingham Palace）得到了公主玛格丽特公主（Princess Margaret）的接见。美丽的公主问道，他是不是不怕赤脚踢球。当时，他泰然自若地一手拿着三明治，一手托杯茶，在答话中对穷困只字不提。他告诉公主，他们更喜欢光脚踢球，这样更容易把球控制住。
Myths gathered round that conversation. Some said Manna-da had told the princess that “Strength is in the mind.” Others said that the king, George VI, had made him roll up his trousers to see if his legs were made of steel. Later versions said that he had played in snow, and certainly he remembered he had at the next Olympics in Helsinki, where ice flakes had been shifted from the field before they played. By then, boots were compulsory; but several players still got frostbite as they lost 1-10 to Yugoslavia, even though it was July. And to his fans Manna-da seemed to play barefoot—agile, skilful and deadly on the free kicks—all through his career.
The empty cupboard
His feet were a metaphor for other virtues. He played carefully, like a gentleman. In a 20-year career he was never booked, never swore, and fouled no one. As captain, he did not raise his voice to players. He disciplined by example, and would refuse to take food before they had eaten theirs. Though he seldom let opponents past him, he was good friends with them off the pitch—even if they played for MB’s great local rival, East Bengal. He had no enemies. On one occasion the Border Security Force team so hobbled Mohun Bagan with vicious tackling in the drawn semi-final of the Durand Cup that MB could not take the field for the replay. Manna-da calmed down the furious crowd of 20,000 who had come to see the game, and then wished BSF good luck for the final.
他的双脚也是他诸多美德的象征。他在球场上谨慎小心，像个绅士。20年的足球生涯中，他从来没有受到裁判的警告，从不骂骂咧咧，更从不犯规。身为队长，他从不大声呵斥队友。他严于律己，以身作则，在队中总是最后一个吃饭。他很少让对手轻易过人，但是在场下他和很多球员都是好朋友，包括莫罕巴干的头号劲敌东孟加拉队（East Bengal）的球员们。他没有敌人。有一次在杜兰杯（Durand Cup）抽签决定的半决赛中赛中，边防保安队（Border Security Force）队凭着恶意攻击，让莫罕巴干队个个一瘸一拐不能上场重新比赛，激起了全场观众的愤怒。曼纳平息了两万名观众的怒火，并绅士般地祝对手决赛好运。
Nor did he care about any of the trappings of the game, or vaunt his glories. Loyally, he played for Mohun Bagan, or coached for it, or acted as assistant secretary and general sounding board, for five decades. He reckoned his total earnings at 19 rupees, or about 20 cents, for travel expenses for forcing his way through the tangled mass of hawkers and buses and rickshaw wallahs on the Howrah bridge when he first joined the club, in 1942. Otherwise, he lived on the money he earned working for the Geological Survey of India.
对于比赛中的陷阱他也不放在心上，更不自吹自擂。他为莫罕巴干尽忠整整50年，要么在队里踢球，要么当教练、秘书助理或总参谋。他回忆，在1942年刚刚加入俱乐部的时候，他的工资是19卢比，约20美分。这点钱仅够从家到俱乐部的路费。长长的豪拉（Howrah）桥上，小贩、公共汽车和人力车夫交织得密密麻麻，他要创出一条路去踢球。如果不去踢球，他可以在印度地理勘测局（Geological Survey of India）的供职，生活本不必如此辛苦。
His flat in Salt Lake, in eastern Kolkata, did not look like a great footballer’s. He had donated his Asian games gold medallion to the government, even though Pandit Nehru himself had pressed it into his hand. His team ties and blazers he had given to charity. What remained was a photograph or two, and an empty cupboard scratched with messages from friends who had come to call on him.
Memories were his wealth, he told interviewers in his old age. He so loved the game that almost all of them were good; he needed no more. He still regretted missing the first penalty kick against France in the London Olympics, and turning down the chance of taking the second penalty because he was afraid of missing again. It still rankled that India had not gone to the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, with him as captain, because the Indian Football Federation had not realised its importance. He was sorry, too, that India was not even doing well in the Asian games. But he lived in hope of a return of national footballing confidence. No, he was not religious, he would say with a smile. But he kept a picture of Goddess Kali, barefoot conqueror of demons, tucked away in his pocket.