Kolkata’s place as one of India’s premier sporting cities is unchallenged. Over the years, thousands of fans have travelled to the city to watch India thrash visiting cricket teams at Eden Gardens, and East Bengal and Mohun Bagan outscore each other at the Salt Lake Stadium. The city has witnessed historic matches, some of which feature in its newest museum—the Fanattic Sports Museum (FSM) in New Town.
FSM houses an impressive collection of memorabilia from Indian and international athletes, across 15 sports. What sets this museum apart from other sporting collections in India (there are private cricket museums in Pune and Chennai) is that it celebrates not just cricket, football, and hockey, but also sports such as chess, golf, and swimming.
The brainchild of veteran sports historian Boria Majumdar, the museum has a number of items from Majumdar’s personal collection—there are Tendulkar’s gloves from when he scored his 100th century against Bangladesh in Dhaka in 2012, P.V. Sindhu’s match jersey from when she won the silver medal in badminton at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and the gloves Abhinav Bindra wore when he won the gold for air rifle shooting during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. There are also shirts worn by Para Olympian shot putter Deepa Malik and javelin thrower Devendra Jhajaria at the Rio Olympics this year. One of the most fascinating exhibits in the museum is tickets to seven Olympic hockey matches where India won the gold medal.
Majumdar’s long association with Indian sports, first as a scholar and then as a commentator, helped him collect these items over the years. Some, like Tendulkar’s gloves, were a gift, while others were bought at various auctions around the world. Visitors can see a signed jersey worn by Brazilian superstar Pelé during the 1970 FIFA World Cup, and caps signed by tennis players Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, the recently crowned Australian Open champion.
Large exhibits dedicated to Indian cricketers like Tendulkar, Ganguly, and Anil Kumble take up entire walls but there are smaller ones too. Like the signed jerseys from Indian Super League football team Atlético de Kolkata, and books dating back to the late 1800s, such as A Chronicle of Cricket among Parsees and The Struggle: Polo versus Cricket by Shahpoorjee Sorabjee.
In addition to serving as a reminder of champion athletes, Majumdar hopes the museum will inspire visitors to take up sports and become more active. “We lack a sporting culture, and the hope is that once a child sees Virat Kohli’s bat, he will be fired up and will start going to the maidan to play cricket,” Majumdar told National Geographic Traveller India. And if Kohli doesn’t cut it, there’s Majumdar’s collection of Bengali periodicals dating back to the 1920s and 1930s. Among these are Manasi, which dealt with athletics and physical exercise, and Meye Mahal, illustrating why women too should take up sport.
Where: Ecospace, New Town, West Bengal. (40min by road from Central Kolkata; the nearest metro stop is Salt Lake City.)
Entry: Tickets ₹100. Discounts available for students of all ages, with valid ID (₹50). Free for state and national athletes. The museum is open six days a week (closed on Mondays), between 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Details: Visit fanatticsportsmuseum.com.