News Article

Making sense of Kolkata football: Will it ever stop living on the fly?

Written by: Punit Tripathi

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While the city's Big Two try to become part of Indian football's new ethos of professionalism, relics of the past are proving hard to let go.

In another season of hit-and-miss, Kolkata ‘giants’ East Bengal and Mohun Bagan failed to add a feather to their famed trophy cabinets. The Calcutta Football League trophy, that had to stay in Kolkata, was won by one of the two. Did that set the Indian footballing capital on fire? No.

Both clubs are struggling with problems

More than a dozen officials have resigned from the board at Mohun Bagan, triggering rumours that suggest that the functionary is not smooth. Officials Srinjoy Bose, the assistant general secretary, and Debasish Dutta, the finance secretary, had played key management roles as the side won the I-league in 2015 and the Federation Cup in 2016. Did they resign on the back of former coach Sanjoy Sen’s resignation, or did club Secretary Anjan Mitra had a role to play?



In a no-holds-barred press conference, the former officials clearly stated the shortcomings of Anjan Mitra, also highlighting financial constraints and the low budget for the team next season. Read the full report here.

Clarifying the same

Meanwhile, the team has not been able to dominate the local echelons, last winning the CFL in 2009. With Sanjoy Sen now at Atletico de Kolkata, who’ll be the next boss in Mohun Bagan’s dugout? Or will they continue to put faith in Shankarlal Chakroborty, a long time servant to the club and who's been good enough in his time?

A former official, recently, wrote a letter, offering Rs. one crore to the club while highlighting an issue that was well under wraps until now. The club has not paid its players’ salaries for the last three months, and needed ‘external intervention and help’ to fulfil the basic job of a football club. Profligacy or the lack of funds after the mass exodus? Both hint at the same inference: Something is seriously wrong at the Green and Maroons.

East Bengal, on the other hand, sacked Khalid Jamil and have given the task of restructuring to Subhash Bhowmick. Every year, the Red-and-Golds appoint a new man at the helm of a team that has been thirsty for national glory, for the 11th year running. Changing managers, at least on the plate, will not serve the cause in the right way and East Bengal must understand that they’ve just let the right man go without giving the sufficient time and space to function.

Jamil’s side looked resolute, hard-working, and the signings of Katsumi Yusa, Mahmoud Al Amna and quality Indian players like Lalramchullova and Brandon Vanlalremdika shows that he’s taken the side in the right direction after years of wilderness. Plugging that one defensive midfield gap, a better No. 9 and a better goalkeeper could’ve done wonders to the well-knit unit. The management, however, had different plans.

The attitude of the fans

East Bengal and Mohun Bagan fans have time and again reminded every other Indian football fan of their legacy and long-time presence on the circuit. Well, the behaviour patterns would not give them rave reviews. The 2012-13 derby left a bad taste in the mouth, with Syed Rahim Nabi’s bleeding face and lopsiding career still fresh.

More recently, after a 5-0 CFL win against Tollygunge Agragami, East Bengal fans reportedly damaged the Mohun Bagan club gate ahead of the Kolkata derby. A police case was filed by the rivals, which stated a lot of damage and asked for stern action.

Watch: East Bengal fans try to vandalize Mohun Bagan club premises

While East Bengal damaged opposition property, Mohun Bagan fans went a step ahead and ‘damaged’ one of their own. “Mohun Bagan fans did spit on me while I was going through the tunnel,” said outgoing manager Sanjoy Sen, after a 2-1 defeat against Chennai City FC at home. The crowd, allegedly, tried to disrupt the post-match press conference by hurling missiles.

Take note, the ISL is on the driver’s seat

Kolkata clubs, or giants, as they call it, should now realise that Indian Super League clubs are here to stay. With the Asian Football Confederation conferring official status on them with an AFC Cup berth, Atletico de Kolkata will certainly, in the near future, stake claim to the fan bases with right marketing, trophies, better organisation for fans at the stadiums and aggressive digital tools.

With Bengaluru FC also jumping ship and winning the first ever Indian Super Cup, it’s imperative to say that the power and panache, both are siding with the ISL. Professionalism, or the lack of it, has halted EB and MB’s foray into the ISL. The ISL fans have time and again talked about the right state of security the league provides, the full-proof contracts, and the facilities even the players boast about.

The clubs have to do something, and do something fast, and do something right, to make things right. If this goes on for long, legacy will probably be the only thing on the side of these clubs, who still have the players to make you sit up and take notice in their ranks.

Published: Sat May 12, 2018 01:01 PM IST

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