I-League 2019-20 winners Mohun Bagan were handed the trophy on Sunday at an event organised at Hyatt Regency in Kolkata with the players, coaches and entire executive committee in attendance. This resulted in an avalanche of football fans who came out in the streets to celebrate this joyous moment after waiting to be officially crowned champions for eight months.
Thousands of Green and Maroon fans took to the streets as the trophy was paraded across the city with continuous social media updates from the club keeping the rest of the footballing community clued in to proceedings in the city of joy. However, what was supposed to be a victory parade took an ugly turn when a certain section of fans built a coffin draped in red and gold and incorporated that into the procession near Bidhan Sarani in the northern part of the city.
For the uninitiated, this was a response to East Bengal fans who had been making fun of Mohun Bagan’s merger with ATK, claiming that the 131-year-old club had ‘ceased to exist’ indicating that the club had become a corporate sell-out.
With the threat of coronavirus still looming large, yesterday’s rally had already drawn the ire of a number of people with social media abuzz with criticism of the club for letting such a huge procession take place in the current environment, more so after a lot of fans were seen not maintaining social distancing and without masks. On top of that, this seemingly tasteless representation of their rivals has angered quite a lot of former players and people associated with Kolkata maidan, especially on a day which was supposed to be wholly celebratory.
East Bengal’s association with Shree Cement and the subsequent rechristening of the club as SC East Bengal has induced similar responses from Mohun Bagan fans before, but none have been as derogatory and vicious as what happened on Sunday. Shanti Ranjan Dasgupta, the Red and Gold’s assistant general secretary wasn’t too perturbed though.
“This is just a real-life representation of the mocking and taunting that social media has facilitated in recent times,” he said to Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika while addressing the issue. “This incident is not representative of what Mohun Bagan, as a club, stands for and we know that. Earlier, members from both clubs used to send sweets to each other upon winning the title, such was the norm, but what happened today is merely proof of where our society is headed as a whole,” he added.
With both the teams set to compete this year in the Indian Super League, it would be better if both sets of fans stopped engaging in this mud-slinging and instead focused on working towards building on their respective teams’ goodwill.
With football fans around the country unanimous in agreeing that the East Bengal - Mohun Bagan rivalry is at the peak of Indian football folklore, such acts do not just demean the identity that these two great clubs have built over the years, they also degrade the respect that each fan base can and should demand for their unwavering passion. Hopefully, we’ll get to see the more sporting side of the two sets of fans once the season gets up and running next month.