From fish seller to champion team’s masseur: Nothing fishy about it

NEW DELHI: Standing at the sidelines on the field of play, he watched the man in front of him with stunning disbelief, shell-shocked by his own good fortune. Ganesh Dalui could not believe that only a few feet away from him was the biggest star of Indian football, the legend of Bengaluru FC, Sunil Chhetri, warming up for the match.

Yes, Ganesh, currently the masseur of Hero I-League champions RoundGlass Punjab, had in mind these thoughts when the Punjab side met Bengaluru FC in the Super Cup match in Kerala. He has come a long way to reach this point where he can rub shoulders with the who’s who of Indian football – his journey has been arduous and eventful, but he has made it with sheer perseverance.

Ganesh Dalui is not a professional footballer – he has never played football at the highest level. Yet, he is one of the key members of RoundGlass Punjab support staff. As the masseur, he is responsible for making each and every player match-ready and fit, apart from the medical staff. Ganesh once dreamed of playing football, but life took him in another direction where he can be with the game 24*7.

Ganesh’s life-story is something straight out of a film script. He hails from the Santoshpur area in Kolkata, and has been working with RoundGlass Punjab FC for two years. He used to play football in his neighbourhood when he was 10 years old. His father was a car washer and his mother worked as a part-time cook in different households. Ganesh started selling fish at the age of 15 in a nearby market to supplement his family’s income. But that could not stop him from playing football. He used to sell fish from 5 a.m. in the morning until noon and play his favourite sport in the evening.

“Football will always be my favourite thing in this world. Selling fish and playing football gave me happiness. I knew I had to earn money for my family, so I started working at an early age.

“Nothing could stop me from playing football. It brought peace to my life. All my hard work and determination have taken me to this level where I can boast of being part of a match in which Sunil Chhetri played,” Ganesh told  

Many years back, when Ganesh was casually playing football with his friends in Santoshpur, a member of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Football Club (ONGC) team in Bengal asked him: “You play good football, would you like to do football related work?” Ganesh immediately said ‘yes’ without missing a beat and it changed his life forever.  

“I did not think for a second and agreed. I just thought that I would be able to work in football. What else can I expect as an eighteen-year-old”, Ganesh said.

An ardent supporter of Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Ganesh moved to Mumbai and learned the job of a masseur. He was a part of the ONGC team for 11 long years. He moved to Mohun Bagan and was part of the club’s Hero I-League winning squad in 2019-20 experiencing the feeling of becoming champions for the first time.

“Oh, that was a feeling that I can never express in words. It was surreal. I was very emotional that day and couldn’t believe that I was a part of the team who lifted the trophy.

“I am very grateful and thankful to chief coach Kibu Vicuna and all the staff, who supported me every single day. I couldn’t speak English but it made no difference to me or any other member of the team. Players, support staff and coaches helped me every day to make me learn things slowly,” Ganesh said.

After his stint with Mohun Bagan, he joined Hero I-League team RoundGlass Punjab FC in 2021 and completed the season in the bio-bubble. The next season, he was a part of another champion team when Round Glass Punjab won the Hero I-League 2022-23 title.

When asked about his feelings about being champions again, Ganesh said: “I would say, it’s all the hard work of each of us. The feeling of being a champion will never be forgotten.

“I will always be immensely grateful to our coach Staikos Vergetis, Football Director Nikolaos Topoliatis, Club Doctor Sidak Dhillon, and Head Physio Levin Vinod and each and every member of our team who have motivated me to work hard and improve in the areas where I work,” Ganesh said.

Ganesh is also a father of a two-year-old kid and wants him to play football and fulfil his dream. “I dream of my son representing the country someday. I am happy that I am associated with football in some manner and want my next generation to do the same too,” he concluded.

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