Monday, April 12

Fan-tastic Bagan

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Like any measure of sporting greatness, only some things are quantifiable, the others just a collective ‘idea’ in the minds of fans and connoisseurs. How many international goals did Maradona score? How old was he when the infamous ‘Hand of God’ happened? These are questions that are easily answerable. But what’s not so easy to qualify, let alone quantify, is that undefinable quality of his shimmering, almost other-worldly, run with the ball towards the opponents’ goal. Harder to define is that collective magic he wove on everyone the moment he stepped out on the field.
Similarly, Mohun Bagan’s existence as a football club is easily quantifiable. It was founded in 1889, thus making it 130-going-on-131 years old. Also, for a die-hard fan, it wouldn’t be difficult to find out how many club victories it has had over the years, how many times it beat East Bengal on the Maidan or even which year its ‘barefoot team’ created history by winning the IFA Shield after beating the East Yorkshire regiment 2-1. What is difficult to define about this Maidan institution is the electric atmosphere on the ground when its faces its arch-rivals. Or, for that matter, why this Mohun Bagan-East Bengal rivalry is such a huge thing, almost a measure of one’s Bengali-ness.

It is, thus, only natural that any decision regarding the club or the football team would evoke a lot of interest and reaction.

It’s been that way since Thursday’s announcement that RPSG Group, which owns and runs Indian Super League (ISL) side ATK FC and Mohun Bagan Football Club (India) Private Limited — that controls the Mohun Bagan football team — will come together to form a new team. The new entity, which will come into existence from June 1 this year, is set to be called ATK Mohun Bagan, with RPSG Group holding 80% shares and Mohun Bagan Football Club (India) Private Limited having the remaining 20%.

The merged team will play in the ISL from next season but Mohun Bagan have the I-League to negotiate this season and will hope to end their I-League sojourn as champions.

Bagan, the table-toppers, will play their first match after this development on Sunday, when they face arch-rivals East Bengal at the Salt Lake Stadium, even as the green-and-maroon faithful weigh in on the new move.

“I have a tattoo of the Mohun Bagan logo on my hand… that will never change,” says ardent supporter Tamal Bose. “Also, this association is not with the club. I think the logo and jersey colour will not be altered. When I was young, both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal had their respective sponsors’ names before the team’s name. Even when the merged team comes into existence, the essence of the Kolkata derby will always remain as the fight between the green-and-maroons and the red-and-golds.”

Sounav Dhawa holds a similar view. “This is a good initiative. I have no issues with ATK being prefixed to Mohun Bagan because whoever invests will surely promote their brand. I will be very happy to see better players turn out for the team,” he said, adding, “The derby will always remain a derby. The Bagan entity is most important.”

Saikat Bose, who stays in Mumbai and is part of the Mumbai-Pune Mariners fans’ group, has a bit of an itch about the ATK Mohun Bagan nomenclature.

“ATK prefixed to Mohun Bagan is something I don’t like much,” he says. “We have to see how the whole thing actually pans out now. It’s better if the logo and jersey colour remains the same. The Kolkata derby will remain the same from the next season as well. The statistics will not show it as the first match-up between the two teams. It will carry the same heritage and passion. For Sunday’s match, we have arranged for a screening in Mumbai. So far, everyone is attending.”

There, however, are a few who have been extremely perturbed by the name of the new team. “Till June 1, the team is Mohun Bagan. So, I have no problem attending any of the matches and I will go to watch Sunday’s derby. I feel, owing to the history, the Kolkata derby will not lose its value from the next season as well. But I might not turn up at the ground. I have no issue with the shareholding pattern but can’t accept ATK Mohun Bagan as the name. Why not something like Kolkata Mohun Bagan? If the name stays, I’ll probably not attend the team’s matches from next season,” says 36-year-old Debashis Bhattacharyya, who has been a Maidan regular since 1997.

Dipayan Bhattacharya, on the other hand, wants to look at the developments with pragmatism. “An investor was needed for us in order to make a big-budget team. Even when we had a sponsor’s name before the team’s name, we went to watch the matches and we also won many trophies. Also, as far as the Kolkata derby is concerned, the passion will never die down,” the 40-year old feels.


Source: Times of India

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