The Real Mean­ing of the Kolkata Derby

In a coun­try ranked 130th in the FIFA rank­ings, Mo­hun Ba­gan vs East Ben­gal is a mat­ter of life and death for the fans NO PROFIT, NO LOSS With a goal­less draw, Mo­hun Ba­gan ex­tend their un­beaten run to 11 games while East Ben­gal re­tain their top po­si­tion

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games - Bo­ria Ma­jum­dar

Two sep­a­rate in­stances sum up the in­ten­sity best. A few years ear­lier, an ar­dent Mo­hun Ba­gan fan got up to read in the morn­ing pa­pers that the club, for want of funds, was think­ing of not re­tain­ing Jose Ramirez Bar­retto, the mer­cu­rial Brazil­ian for­ward and the teams’ main­stay. Drop­ping ev­ery­thing at hand, the fan had reached the club tent by noon with his only real ma­te­rial as­set — the le­gal pa­pers of his one bed­room flat. He wanted to give it to the of­fi­cials to sell the flat and re­tain Bar­retto. East Ben­gal, surely, can’t be too far be­hind. A South Kolkata cou­ple has con­verted the en­tire draw­ing room of theirs into a minia­ture East Ben­gal ground. There’s a goal­post, a gallery, mul­ti­ple club flags, a tent and also a can­teen!

None of this should sur­prise a fol­lower of In­dian foot­ball who is well versed with what Mo­hun Ba­gan ver­sus East Ben­gal re­ally means. One of the world’s fore­most sport­ing ri­val­ries, it has and will stand the test of time.

Yes the clubs haven’t mod­ernised with time, they have not been able to keep pace with com­mer­cial­ism and glob­al­iza­tion and may soon be con­sumed by the ISL but fan­dom, it must be said, is an is­land which has staved off all in­ter­fer­ence. That is why ev­ery news­pa­per in the re­gion had a ded­i­cated 5-6 page sec­tion on the Kolkata Derby on Sun­day morn­ing. All talk in the paras of Kolkata on way to the bazaar was about Sony Norde and Wed­son and about San­jay Sen and Trevor James Mor­gan. Mo­hun Ba­gan ver­sus East Ben­gal isn’t a mere foot­ball ri­valry. It is a sen­ti­ment and a part of the Ben­gali ethos that is in­te­gral to the Ben­gali iden­tity. It doesn’t mat­ter who plays for ei­ther of the teams or who coaches them for all that is rel­e­vant is it is a con­test be­tween the Green and Maroon and the Red and Yel­low. From the time Nepal Chakrabarty scored the first goal in the Kolkata Derby in 1925 to last evening, the Kolkata Derby has to be the most talked about event in Ben­gal on the day it is played. No won­der there were a thou­sand East Ben­gal fans who braved the morn­ing chill to make it to the Kanchen­junga Sta­dium in Silig­uri on Satur­day morn­ing to see their favourite play­ers train. On most days, and Sun­day was no ex­cep­tion, the game did not scale any great height. The ten­sion and the in­ten­sity is such that the play­ers are of­ten The much hyped I-League foot­ball derby be­tween East Ben­gal and Mo­hun Ba­gan at Kanchen­junga Sta­dium here ended in agoal­less­drawwith­both­teams­goal­keep­ers re­turn­ing he­roes. On a day none of their ace marks­men man­aged to fire a goal, East Ben­gal’s TP Re­henesh was ad­judged man-of-the­match with his res­o­lute dis­play un­der the bar in the first-half.

Mo­hun Ba­gan’s De­b­jit Ma­jumder stole theshowinthe­last­pe­ri­od­with­anequally daz­zling dis­play as in the end the crowd re­turned de­jected with­out wit­ness­ing a goal from high-pro­file derby.

Mo­hun Ba­gan’s star Haitian for­ward Sony Norde, who was in­stru­men­tal in their I-League tri­umph looked threat­en­ing in the first-half, but East Ben­gal gaffer TrevorMor­gan­did­well­to­keep­hi­mat­bay with their right back do­ing a fine job.

The Haitian was kept ab­so­lutely quiet as Mor­gan em­ployed at least two men to hold him off to set­tle for a point and re­mained on top with 20 points from eight matches. The re­sult meant Mo­hun Ba­gan re­mained at sec­ond place with 17 points from seven matches.

There was very lit­tle to choose be­tween both the teams as Mo­hun Ba­gan coach San­joy Sen fi­nally re­placed Norde in the 86th minute. Play­ing in front of a bois­ter­ous home sup­port, East Ben­gal were kept

con­sumed by the oc­ca­sion and find it im­pos­si­ble to play their best. How­ever, none of it mat­ters. We, Mo­hun Ba­gan and East Ben­gal fans, will still watch. Wat c h it a h e a d o f a n E P L Ga me b e t we e n Ma n c h e s t e r Un i t e d a n d Liver­pool. This ri­valry is an ex­ten­sion of us and to see the two teams play weds us to our roots in Kolkata.

In 1975, and I hate to re­count this as a Mo­hun Ba­gan fan, East Ben­gal won the Derby 5-0. In shame and sor­row, one Umakanta Palodhi com­mit­ted sui­cide. He on toes with the likes of Norde and Dar­ryl Duffy threat­en­ing their de­fence more than once in the first 45 min­utes.

But it was the East Ben­gal goal­keeper Re­henesh­whowasthes­tarofthe­first-half thwart­ing at least a cou­ple of fine chances.

The sce­nar­ios turned in the last 45 min­utes with East Ben­gal on the as­cent and it was time for Mo­hun Ba­gan goal­keeper Ma­jumder to sparkle un­der the bar.

In the 57th minute, Robin Singh headed on a long ball as Ed­uardo Fer­reira could not clear the ball with Wil­lis Plaza tak­ing a fine pos­ses­sion from a close range but Ma­jumder dis­played some fine re­flexes to help his team re­main un­scathed. Ma­jumder made a sec­ond fine save in the 84th minute from a through ball. With 15 min­utes left, both teams opted to play safe as the pace de­clined.

While Mo­hun Ba­gan kept on pil­ing the pres­sure, East Ben­gal re­ceived one halfchance in a 23rd minute move when Plaza strayed away from a Singh pass from the right flank. The Trinida­dian how­ever had a poor fin­ish as his an­gled shot was not only weak but aimed straight at Ma­jumder.

Bar­ring the soli­tary chance, the Mariners for­ward line kept on at­tack­ing and tem­pers were seen fly­ing high at the stroke of half-time re­sult­ing in a yel­low card for Ralte.

Mo­hun Ba­gan ver­sus East Ben­gal isn’t a mere foot­ball ri­valry. It is a sen­ti­ment and a part of the Ben­gali ethos that is in­te­gral to the Ben­gali iden­tity

couldn’t bear the shock and hoped that he would be born again to avenge the de­feat. We won’t ever know if that can hap­pen. But what we do know is that Palodhi is not alone. There are mil­lions like him mak­ing this ri­valry be­tween two teams of a coun­try ranked 130th in the FIFA rank­ings no less than a Real Madrid ver­sus Barcelona or a Boca Ju­niors ver­sus River Plate. To go back to Bill Shank­ley, “Some peo­ple think foot­ball is a mat­ter of life and death. I as­sure you it’s much more se­ri­ous than that.”

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