Sailendra Nath Manna (1 September 1924 – 27 February 2012), known popularly as Sailen Manna, was an Indian international footballer and is considered to be one of the best defenders India has ever produced. He has represented and captained India in different international competitions including Olympics and Asian Games. He also has a record of playing for Mohun Bagan, one of the best clubs in India, for a continuous period of 19 years. He is the only Asian Footballer ever to be named among the 10 best Captains in the world by the English FA in 1953.
He graduated from the Surendranath College, an affiliated college of the University of Calcutta. He worked for the Geological Survey of India.
Manna started his playing career for Howrah Union, then a club in the 2nd Division Kolkata Football League, in 1940. After turning out for the club for a couple of seasons, he joined Mohun Bagan in 1942 and continued playing for the club for a period of 19 years, till his retirement in 1960. During this period, he was the Captain of Mohun Bagan from 1950 to 1955. It is to be noted that during his 19 years career in Mohun Bagan, he reportedly earned only Rs.19 (roughly USD 0.5 based on existing exchange rates). As a defender, he was known for his anticipation, covering and a strong free kick.
Sailen Manna was a part of the Indian Football Team for the 1948 London Olympics, where Indian lost to France by a margin of 1-2. Under Manna's captaincy, India won the Gold Medal in the 1951 Asian Games and also won the Quandrangular Tournament for four consecutive years from 1952 to 1956. In 1953, the England Football Association rated him among the 10 best skippers of the world in its yearbook. Manna was also the captain of the Indian team in 1952 Olympics and a member of the 1954 Asian Games. He used to keep a picture of Goddess Kali, barefoot conqueror of demons, tucked away in his pocket.
Two of his greatest regret in life are – (1) missing the first penalty kick against France in the London Olympics, and turning down the chance of taking the second penalty because he was afraid of missing again, (2) India had not gone to the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, with him as captain, because the Indian Football Federation had not realized its importance.
Honours and awards
- Included in the list of the 10 best Captains of the world by English FA in 1953.
- Awarded the Padma Shri in 1971 by the Government of India.
- Awarded the "Footballer of the Millennium" by All India Football Federation in 2000.
- Awarded "Mohun Bagan Ratna" in 2001.
After being unwell for quite some time, Manna died at a private hospital in Kolkata on Monday, 27 February 2012. He was 87 years old and was survived by his wife and daughter.