The mark of a true sportsperson lies in not only celebrating victory, but also in acknowledging his/her opponent’s efforts. Not surprisingly, some of the world’s best athletes have always been gracious in defeat. And that is why footballers across the globe swap jerseys after the final whistle, cricketers pluck out stumps for keepsakes, batsmen kiss their bat after scoring 100 and strikers keep the match ball after netting a hat-trick.
If a sweat-soaked jersey, a football covered in dirt and a bat that has survived 50 overs can mean so much to players, imagine their worth to fans who stand by their sporting icons through thick and thin. Needless to say, these sporting memorabilia are worth their weight in gold for devoted fans. Sadly, however, not everyone gets to see or feel these artefacts. Not any more. The recently-opened Fanattic Sports Museum in Kolkata aims to bridge that gap by bringing fans closer to some of the world’s most iconic sporting artefacts.
An initiative by sports historian and writer Boria Majumdar and Ambuja Neotia Group chairman Harshavardhan Neotia, Fanattic houses sports-related artefacts of famous personalities such as Pele, Sachin Tendulkar, Usain Bolt, Roger Federer, Lionel Messi, among many others. “Having worked on a doctoral dissertation on cricket and on sports around the world, I had travelled to multiple museums across the world. But there was always lacunae that existed in the Indian scene—lack of a space that reserved artefacts and memoralised sport the way it should be done. We have a very rich sporting heritage in India and need to preserve it for future generations,” says Majumdar, adding, “Fanattic Sports Museum is the first-of-its-kind museum in the country.”
The museum has around 500-600 artefacts as of now, with memorabilia ranging from sports like hockey, football and cricket, to personal artefacts of sportspersons including Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, etc. Another 1,000 objects will be added soon, says Majumdar, adding that the focus is on a composite collection covering different sports. So while there is focus on Indian cricket from its very inception, there is also ample representation of the country’s Olympic encounters since the 1880s—the latest is a jersey from PV Sindhu’s campaign at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Interestingly, the musuem also showcases the original bank passbook (dated 1926) and British-Indian passport of CK Nayudu, the first captain of the Indian Test cricket team.
Majumdar says he has been collecting and documenting the artefacts since the past two decades. “I spent an enormous amount of money in auctions,” smiles Majumdar, talking about the entire compilation of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanacks from 1864 to 2016. Help also arrived from several sportspersons, he says. While Tendulkar gave his “100th 100” gloves, bat, sweater and jersey, Abhinav Bindra pitched in with the gloves he wore during his historic gold medal-winning journey at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Many others like Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Deepa Malik, Devendra Jhajharia, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Karun Nair, Mary Kom and Vijender Singh also contributed.
Spread across 7,000 sq ft, Fanattic also has special football and Olympic enclosures. The former, in fact, will display Atletico de Kolkata’s Indian Super League trophy for the next few months. “I have also entered into a partnership with the National Football Museum in England. There will be travelling exhibitions from there that will be displayed here. Adam Chadwick, the curator of Lord’s museum, is part of our board as well. So I expect to get some items from their museum as part of a travelling exhibition too,” says Majumdar.
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Fanattic also has a fan shop from where visitors can buy replicas of items showcased in the musuem. Audio-visual zones have also been designed to make the museum more interactive.
So are there plans to take the musuem to other cities in the country? “It depends on the audience response. If we replicate this in other parts of India, a stumbling block will be the exhibits, because a lot of these items are just single exhibits. It can be done, but that’s not part of our immediate plans,” Majumdar says, adding, “No collection of this nature can ever be complete. At the same time, it’s good enough to give people a fair idea of how rich our sporting history is.”