“It would’ve been fine had we even drawn it. It was a bad loss for us,” were the first words Hossain spoke after he played the final game of his career.
When asked what was his secret for a long career that spanned almost 22 years was, he said, “Getting married at 23 helped me stay disciplined. That explains why I have been able to play for so long.”
Reminiscing the journey, Hossain said, “I think only not being able to get the I-League will remain my regret. Otherwise, I’ve gotten more than I could’ve hope for. I wouldn’t have been the man I am without the fans. I couldn’t dream of becoming what I am when I arrived from my village.”
“I would’ve loved it had more people turned up today. But unless there are results, fans won’t come. Maybe If I played at Mohun Bagan for more, more fans would’ve come. Maybe this was in my fate. But wherever I’ve played, be it East Bengal or Mohun Bagan, I’ve only received love. My golden moment was from 2009 to 2016 in East Bengal, also when at Mohun Bagan between 2003 and 2006. Playing for the national team more would’ve definitely pleased me.”
He also revealed, “Trevor Morgan (his former coach at East Bengal and Kerala Blasters) texted me, “Idiot why aren’t you playing one more year?”. But I told him, no coach this was my final year. With the kind of love I’m getting, I wanted to retire getting this kind of appreciation.”
The 37-year-old also shared his desire to give back to the game in due course of time. “I’ll take a few months of rest. I want to start coaching the kids afterwards. See after the ISL (Indian Super League) has come, the foreign coaches get more priority the Indian coaches don’t get any spot apart from assistant coaches. So I want to continue coaching, If I get a bigger chance, then I’ll think about it.”
It was encouraging to see that the Indian Arrows players went up to the veteran and tossed him up in the air after the final whistle in the absence of the Mohun Bagan players, who had already vanished into the tunnell.
“It wasn’t pre-planned. Big congratulations for Mehtab. He contributed a lot to Indian football. Our boys look up to him. I wish all the best for his future. Hope he continues to give back to football,” Indian Arrows coach Floyd Pinto said.
Pinto talked further about the game. “Just want to appreciate the boys how they played. It has been a perfect season for us. It shows the development they have made and the knowledge they have absorbed from the staff. Today, we were efficienct and we sored in every chance we had. The last match of the season against a historic team in an iconic venue and the boys always had wanted to defeat a big team.”
“It’s important to switch off a little bit (before the Super Cup). Eleven of our players go and return for the India U23 camp before we resume training. We will also hold the AFC U19 qualifiers’ trials. Once the players are back we can start preparing for the Super Cup.”
Player of the game, Rahul KP also paid his respects to the retiring legend. “Mehtab was an inspiration for me while growing up. When I was a young kid, he was the best midfielder in India.”
Meanwhile, Mohun Bagan head coach Khalid Jamil termed it as a ‘miscommunication’ when none of the Green and Maroon players stayed on the pitch for Hossain’s send-off. However, they emerged later for a small celebration with friends and family.
Jamil also said that his team was outplayed. “They played well as a team. They got a result because of that. I can’t blame my defense. Everybody tried. These things happen. Shame on me.”
“Maybe we were in a relaxed mood because we had already qualified for the Super Cup Round of 16s,” he concluded.