Kolkata: Rarely has any player in Indian football received a great send-off the way Sony Norde did after lasting just four games into the season, his time cut short due to a right knee anterior cruciate ligament injury.
His face was the mask of over 20,000 people in the 2-0 Kolkata derby win over East Bengal yesterday and on Monday a swarm people who had gathered at the Mohun Bagan club lawn vizared Norde, chanted ‘Sony….Sony’ throughout as their beloved star entered the premises one final time.
The 28 year-old had earlier announced his decision to leave the club midway through the season for his surgery, but broke down as the fans touched his feet pleading not to go and struggling to regain composure he promised, “I will be back.”
“As soon as I am fit, I promise you guys that I will be back. The love I have got makes Mohun Bagan unique among all the clubs I have played in. I didn’t want to go but for the sake of my family, my career, I have to,” he said a day before he departed for Argentina, where he will have his surgery.
Norde will have his surgery on February 2 in Buenos Aires and then undergo rehabilitation at Boca Juniors, said Mohun Bagan director Debasish Dutta even as the man himself struggled to articulate sentences, with tears running down his eyes.
That Bagan outmanoeuvred East Bengal 2-0 that could easily have been many, eased his decision to depart said the Mariners cynosure, who since joining in 2014 has won almost every major trophy with the century old club and is also the I-League’s highest paid player, with a reported salary of over Rs 2 crore.
“I felt the pain while practising for the derby on January 18,” said Norde who then consulted his doctor in Argentina. “He told me that I needed surgery and a rehab for seven weeks and that he would help me to recover quickly, within 5-7 weeks.”
“I couldn’t sleep that night and the next day, I couldn’t face my teammates because all this while they had thought I would be playing the derby,” added the former Mumbai City player.
But despite missing their main man, Bagan played a way which made their poor form this season feel like a bad dream and it had coach Sankarlal Chakraborty later saying, ” In all the time that Sony was injured, a new Bagan team was building up. Just that no one noticed it then,” and Sony having been a central figure of this team exclaimed the same.
“A derby is always 50-50 but yesterday, Mohun Bagan played like Manchester City or FC Barcelona. We could have scored six or seven goals…. If they play like this, they won’t need me.”
Each and every player had talked of dedicating the derby win to their lodestar and Norde who had congratulated the boys each and everyone with a big hug said he will certainly miss playing with them. But ‘win and win’ will be in his lips everytime they talk of Bagan, he signed off.