It’s derby day for Kolkata football. The two legacy clubs, ATK Mohun Bagan and SC east Bengal are set to face off in the first ever derby in the Indian Super League (ISL). Over the years, their rivalry has thrown up numerous displays of passion from the fans. Some are heartwarming while some others are heartbreaking, but all of them underline why a simple game of football means so much to them. Here are the top 6 such facts to get you ready for the big match later tonight.
One Mohun Bagan fan’s determination to keep hold of Jose Ramirez Barreto
Jose Ramirez Barreto is arguably the most loved foreign player to have played for the Mariners. The Brazilian club legend played for the club in two different spells and was the cynosure of all eyes as far as fans are concerned every time he took the field. It was therefore a bewildering moment for fans when a few years earlier, the club management decided that they could not retain the services of the prolific goalscorer due to lack of funds. This prompted one fine gentleman and a Bagan fan to pull an unbelievable stunt. He rushed to the club tent upon reading about the development with the only real material asset that he had, the papers for his one-bedroom flat. His demand – take my flat but keep hold of Barreto.
A suicide in the name of football
Mohun Bagan lost the 1975 IFA Shield final to East Bengal 5-0, the biggest margin of defeat ever in the derby. This shame and the sorrow was too much to take for Umakanto Palodhi, an ardent Bagan supporter, who ended up taking his own life. In his suicide note, he wrote, “I will take revenge of this defeat in my next birth by becoming a Mohun Bagan footballer.”
When the love for the game finds its way into your living room
Fancy an East Bengal-themed living room? A South Kolkata couple did and went ahead with converting their entire living area into a miniature East Bengal ground. They have a goalpost, a fan gallery, multiple club flags, the club tent itself as well as a miniature canteen in the far corner to completely replicate the aesthetic of the club ground. If this isn’t passion we don’t know what is.
The Darkest derby day ever
It was on 16th August 1980 that we first saw the darker side of the Kolkata derby. The referee showed a red card to Dilip Palit and Bidesh Basu in the second half as both the teams were reduced to 10 men. This triggered the supporters inside the Eden Gardens who, for a change, had been clubbed together in the stands instead of the usual arrangement involving separate stands. This resulted in a stampede that eventually took the lives of 16 people in the stands, a black spot in Kolkata derby history.
1997 Federation Cup Semi-Final, ecstasy for PK Banerjee and East Bengal
In what was a high voltage clash between the two giants, a record 1,31,000 supporters (you read that right) cramped into the Yuva Bharati Krirangan in Salt lake for the Federation Cup semi-final on the 13th of July. It was supposed to be a derby for the ages with both managers, Amal Datta for Bagan and PK Banerjee for East Bengal, at their tactical best. Datta had perfected his diamond system that season and proceeded with his usual mind games before the match. Unfazed by his pre-match histrionics, Banerjee showed everyone why he was a master tactician as Bhaichung Bhutia scored a second-half hat-trick to give East Bengal a 4-1 victory.
Controversies galore as Mohun Bagan refuse to take the field
In the I-league clash between the teams in 2012 saw crowd unrest reach fever pitch. In an ill-tempered first half, three Bagan players were shown the yellow card before Harmanjot Khabra gave East Bengal the lead. Soon after, Bagan’s Odafa Okolie was shown a straight red for dissent and the situation in the stands escalated beyond control. Bagan midfielder Syed Rahim Nabi had to be hospitalised after a missile from the crowd hit him on his head. The police lathi-charged the angry supporters as the Mariners refused to take the field in the second half. The club was initially banned for two years but that was later rescinded with them having to pay a fine, as all the points that they had accumulated till then were nullified. The match was awarded to East Bengal by a 3-0 margin.