Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Belpahar, Aug 2:
They are all champion footballers and have won several tournaments not only in western Odisha, but across the state. Their beaming photographs with trophies in hand have been published in newspapers many times.
So far so good. But the bit that comes next is at once shocking and depressing. Unable to afford decent clothes because of their poverty, these champions committed burglary at a ready made shop and stole some clothes. Unfortunately for them though, they were arrested and then forwarded to the court.
Police arrested 11 of them on Friday and seized several stolen pairs of clothes from them while another is still at large. All of them are members of the Kadupada football team of Belpahar, said police sources.
The revelation was made by Jharsuguda SP Ms S Shyni at a press conference at the Belpahar police station on Friday.
The arrested were Bablu Bag (25), Pradip Biswal (20), Biswanath Kissan (21), Dillip Kissan (20), Santosh Munda (20), Jagdish Ping (19), Ajit Kissan (20), Bidyas Munda (19), Kishore Munda (20), Bijay Munda (19) and Kanhu Munda (19), said Ms Shyni. Stolen clothes have been seized from all of them, she added.
While investigating the complaint of a burglary at a ready made garments shop in Gumadera Jubilee Market in Belpahar on July 15 night, police got a tip off and raided the residence of Bablu Bag and seized several pieces of the stolen new garments. Their fates were sealed when the shopkeeper Faiz Ahmed identified the clothes as the ones stolen from his shop. Bablu’s confession of the crime led to the arrest of others, the SP said.
According to the statements of the accused, they have played in tournaments in different areas and have won a host of prizes. But since they were very poor, they could not afford good clothes to wear and thought of this way to acquire them, Ms Shyni said.
Police said these footballers from Kadupada had come to practice at the TRL stadium on July 15. On seeing the shop selling ready made garments, they hatched a plan to commit burglary.
All of them gathered at the Kadupada School at around 1 am. From there, they walked over the railway track connecting TRL and reached Jubilee market. Their job was made easier in the absence of any watchman as Bidyas Munda and Kishore Munda used an iron rod to break open the lock of the shop.
Having gained entry into the shop, they packed whatever ready made garments they could lay their hands on (worth around Rs 2 lakh) in a sack and shared their loot near the railway track going towards Nuapada.
In a move that proves that their act of ‘stealing’ was prompted by need rather than greed, the footballers kept the few pairs of jeans and shirts that fit them and dumped the rest in a pond and buried some others in a pit. Those garments have also been recovered, police said.