Mumbai: Football in Kolkata can be best described as ‘The East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan clash’, as it boasts of the largest audience for a football match in India. However, going by the match on Wednesday, it is safe to say otherwise. Not because they could not put up a good show, but because they could not put up any show at all.
At a time when the Indian Super League or even the now-defunct National Football League (NFL) wasn’t making heads turn, the Calcutta Football League ruled the Indian football scene and that’s how these two teams rose to prominence. The two teams were supposed to clash in Kalyani in an important match of the Calcutta Football League (CFL) on Wednesday. East Bengal bagged three points as Mohun Bagan didn’t field a team.
The reason for not fielding one is bizarre and something which coming from professionals like Mohun Bagan is not acceptable. Managing Director of the team Anjan Mitra on Tuesday said that they had asked for two extra days of practice as their players weren’t accustomed to the turf at Kalyani.
“We are not turning up tomorrow. About eight of our players have not even seen Kalyani Stadium, how can we play without even a day’s practice?” he had said.
The match was mired in controversy after a makeshift structure to enhance the capacity to 16,000 did not meet safety requirements and Mohun Bagan cited a shortfall in the tickets made available to their 6234 club members. According to Mohun Bagan, it was verbally agreed that both clubs were to get 4,000 tickets each but a temporary structure to increase the capacity did not get the clearance and IFA later said they cannot spare more than 2,000 each.
However, Bengal’s football governing body, Indian Football Association (IFA), said the teams had agreed to play in Kalyani earlier. Ganguli said, “We cannot spare more than 2000 tickets for them, as per their original suggestion of reserving 25% of all tickets for both clubs. We had planned for 16,000 spectators, but the temporary gallery was not satisfactory as per the safety requirements. We will not be able to defer the match beyond Tuesday.”
In a letter written to IFA by Mitra read, “Now it’s impossible to meet the demand of our members.” Mitra further said they suggested Mohun Bagan Stadium as an alternate venue but it did not get police permission.
A clash that turns the stadium into full house, which is not a scene even during the ISL, only makes us worry about its future draws. If it proves to be so difficult to pull out the heavyweight Mohun Bagan in a CFL match, the future of the team and league looks disturbed.