Former Indian forward Surojit Bose, an important member of Mahindra United's National Football League win in 2005-06, is battling stage one blood cancer and is currently being treated at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.
If cancer was not enough the 33-year-old, who hails from Kalyani in Kolkata suburbs, is also facing an acute financial crisis as his employers, a coaching academy in Pune, has not paid him for four months' following the nationwide lockdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I've fought on the pitch and now it's the battle for life and, as always, I will not give up. I've to return at any cost. I've got my family back home," Bose, who was given the first round of chemo on Tuesday, said.
After coming to know of his financial plight, Denson Devdas-run 'Players' for Humanity' -- a forum involving former and current India footballers -- has come forward and is bearing the cost of the first month of his treatment.
"We have estimated that the cost of the treatment will run up to Rs 2.5 lakh in the first month. We will bear the entire cost and see how he progresses," said Devadas, a Kerala-born former India midfielder.
Fondly known as Baju, Bose played for India under coach Sukhwinder Singh from 2004-08 and was instrumental in Mahindra United's NFL triumph in 2005-06.
He was much sought-after by Subhas Bhowmick-coached East Bengal during the phase as he represented arch-rivals Mohun Bagan for the 2007-08 season when they won the Federation Cup.
Bose also represented Mohammedan Sporting and was last seen in Bharat FC colours in the I-League in 2014 before he went into coaching.
"I had joined this Pune coaching centre for a two-year contract but they have not paid me for four months. I'm planning to take legal action," Bose said.
Bose had gone to New Delhi in the first week of this month for some coaching development purpose when he suddenly fell sick and was admitted to Safdarjung Hospital where Dr Abhijit Kumar came to his rescue.
"My ankle had swollen and I was having a severe urinary infection. Dr Kumar suspected something and conducted blood tests and I was diagnosed with the first stage of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. He then immediately referred me to the AIIMS," said Bose, who was admitted to the AIIMS on August 7.
Bose is now looked after by his brother-in-law in New Delhi and is awaiting his brother to come from Kalyani.
"I would not be talking to you today had it not been for people like my former players and friends who have been like a rock. Dr Kumar has been my saviour," Bose said.
"My former teammates are also taking my updates daily and giving me confidence by singing songs like Jane Nahin Denge Tujhe (3 Idiots). I know I've to win this battle at any cost," he concluded.