Kolkata is finally London, at least footballing-wise!
Written by: Punit Tripathi
On the banks of rivers Thames and Hoogly, footballing scenarios have been quite identical.
The I-league saw its final round of games being played on Wednesday and in a parallel continent, English clubs were participating in the Champions League/Europa League. The results were painstakingly similar, and so have been thier stories in the recent past.
There is no comparison in terms of the quality of football, but a lot can be compared otherwise. Mohammedan Sporting and Arsenal, Chelsea and Mohun Bagan and East Bengal and Tottenham Hotspur have had similar stories. One trio on the banks of the Thames, the other, on the banks of the Hoogly.
Sporting tried a mini-comeback in this season’s Calcutta Football League, signing last season’s I-league top scorer Asser Pierre Dipanda Dicka. However, they could not make an impact and the player moved to rivals Mohun Bagan. There are two ways of looking at this with Arsenal in hindsight. Alexis Sanchez, after a failed title dream at the Emirates, moved to close rivals Manchester United. Also, after the signing of Pierre-Emrick Aubameyang, Arsenal are again looking to make a comeback via the Europa League, something the Kolkata club will keep trying under a rejigged management.
Both Arsenal and Sporting are resting on their historic laurels and need to achieve something meaningful at the national level to be looked back at, with the same respect and fear.
Coming to the second comparison, Chelsea and Mohun Bagan look agonizingly close. Chelsea won the Premier League last season, Mohun Bagan came painfully close, only losing due to the 1-0 defeat in the penultimate game of the season at Aizawl. Chelsea currently have a manager who’s running out of time, while Mohun Bagan’s Sanjoy Sen already has. By the end of the season, the Italian, too, looks set to be given the boot by Russian owner Roman Abramovich.
However, the most similar clubs in the city of blue are Spurs and the Red-and-Gold. Both feature dynamic young tacticians, who’ve a reputation to carve out wins with a distinctive playing style. The clubs, both, have been knocking at the door of their country’s premier trophy for some time now, but to no avail. Tottenham last won the league in 1960-61 while East Bengal lifted the National Football League in 2003-04. Ironically, both trophies have seen a name-change and both teams have never won the newly-named.
On Wednesday (March 8), Khalid Jamil’s men were out to win their game against NEROCA FC to have any shot at the I-league title, probably their closest push in 14 years. In a different continent, Tottenham had promised fans they’ll continue their Champions League journey, after they drew the first leg 2-2 against perennial competition specialists Juventus from Italy.
Both fell. East Bengal drew their game against NEROCA 1-1 (winning the game wouldn’t have mattered at the end as Minerva Punjab defeated Churchill Brothers), while Tottenham lost their bout 2-1. Argentines Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain sinking the English ship, like their compatriots did at the 1986 FIFA World Cup final, courtesy Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ and the ‘Wonder Goal.'
If you followed the Juventus-Tottenham and East Bengal-NEROCA game, you would have seen another similarity. The similarity in intent. Both losing teams missed several chances in the first half and tried to continue the momentum in the second 45. The end, too, was similar. Fans of both clubs would agree that the scenario was catastrophic.
While there’s no real connection or similarity in the clubs in probably the two most sweepingly self-indulgent cities in the world, their football clubs have managed to draw a line of unison between them. The line has not come under positive scenarios, but West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will maybe afford a smirk. After all, the political leader had, in 2011, said that she wants to make her city similar to the capital of England. The footballing gods, well, have blessed her city!
Published: Mon Mar 12, 2018 12:03 PM IST