Jose Ramirez Barreto - The Godly Mariner
"Barreto, Barreto, Barreto" - this name has been ringing through galleries of McDowell Mohun Bagan fans for over a decade. The chants will only be louder as Jose Ramirez Barreto appears on the Yuva Bharati Krirangan turf, on the 6th of May, to play Pune FC in his final game for the Mariners. Barreto's presence still sends McDowell Mohun Bagan fans into a frenzy and his popularity too remains unmatched.
Born in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Barreto was a part of Germio's youth system. Luiz Felipe Scolari, who was the coach of the 2002 FIFA World Cup winning Brazil team, overlooked Barreto's progress as a player at Germio. In 1999, oblivious of the fact that the move would define his career, Barreto joined McDowell Mohun Bagan to partner Uzbek striker Igor Skyrvin.
After making his debut for the Mariners against ITI in Bangalore, Barreto was instrumental in helping them to the National Football League title that season. He finished the following season as the top scorer in the league but the Mariners could only finish runners up in the title race. He continued to toy with oppositions and scored vital goals as Mohun Bagan were crowned NFL champions for a record third time in 2002.
Playing in India, Barreto spent 11 seasons with the Mariners and a lone season with the now disbanded Mahindra United team. He struck 238 goals in the 11 seasons he played in India. Though he was someone who never played for the records, Barreto became the first foreigner to register 200 goals for an Indian club when he scored a hattrick for the Mariners against Chirag United Kerala in 2010.
He was also very effective for the Mariners in their outings against city rivals Kingfisher East Bengal. His seventeen goals are the highest scored by any foreigner in the Kolkata derby. He is also Mohun Bagan's top scorer and the second highest goal scorer in derby matches. At a recent press meet when asked about his best derby win, the Brazilian said, "The 2-1 victory which was attended by FIFA President, Joseph Blatter, was the best. Douglas and I were the scorers for Mohun Bagan."
Barreto will remain a 'GOD' to generations of Mohun Bagan supporters for the loyalty he displayed towards the club. He never switched camps to East Bengal at a time when most players were busy jumping from one Kolkata giant to the other.
As he heads towards his final game in the jersey he adorned, the only thing on his mind would be a victory that would help his beloved club finish the season on a high. The club faithfuls will be hoping for a little more though. They would want to see their 'GOD' score and celebrate in his final run at the park as a Mariner.
Arnab Ghosh, a Ph. D. student of the Department of Mathematics, IIT Guwahati, is...