Monday, 1 June 2015

Mohun Bagan Win the League

Champions of India. Mohun Bagan celebrates its league victory. Photograph - NDTV Sports 

Mohun Bagan has always loved the big stage.
The National Club of India, the first Indian club ever to beat a European team back in 1911, the club that has united generations of football lovers, the club that shares almost the entirety of Bengali football glory with its great rivals East Bengal, is back in the limelight. As Mohun Bagan lifted the I-League trophy for the first time in thirteen long years, thus becoming the best club in the nation once again, a million hearts erupted in joy. 

Kolkata, once again, is the footballing powerhouse of the nation. East Bengal finished second in the league last year, Atletico de Kolkata brought home the inaugural ISL trophy, and now Mohun Bagan have clinched the league that has eluded the city since East Bengal last won it back in 2004.

In what has to be the most euphoric moment of a teenage Mohun Bagan fan's life, I caught up with one of the most passionate Green-and-Maroon supporters I know. Arinjay Ghosh, a regular at the Salt Lake stadium to cheer the Mariners to victory, talked about the wave of emotions his entire family went through after a historic night in the context of Kolkata's football circuit. Here's what he had to say.

"For our generation of Mohun Bagan fans, this was the greatest day in history. 

We were too young to celebrate with Chima Okeri's team from 1998. We had not seen the magician Barreto from 2000 and 2002. I come from a family where people bleed green and maroon. My maternal grandfather used to travel 5 hours on matchday to watch the team play. My father had been a season ticket holder. They have seen the highs and lows of the club.

I have been supporting Mohun Bagan for the past 10 years and I have not seen the greats my father and grandfather talk about. I have not even seen Barreto in the pink of his game. For 10 years I have mostly returned from the stadium sad and disappointed. We did not have a trophy to show since 2009. In this phase, the team got banned from the I League. In this phase, the team could hardly buy a victory against bitter rivals, East Bengal. We had become a laughing stock. The tag of National Club had become a joke. But through all of it, we stood by our team and went to the stadium every time to cheer our hearts and lungs out. So yesterday was a chance to not only bring glory back to Mohun Bagan and our longing hearts but also to football in Bengal as a whole. There used to be a time, when Mohun Bagan and East Bengal annexed the top two positions and the rest of the teams fought for third place. But for over a decade, Goa and then Bangalore had become the powerhouses. Kolkata football had become the stuff of our previous generations. Even yesterday, for a long time things did not go as expected and we fell behind. I had heard stories about how the odds were stacked against us back in 1998 and 2002. With a glisten in his eyes, pride in his heart and hopefulness in his voice, my father said, "We always come back. In 1998 it was the Nigerain, Chima and in 2002 it was the Nigerian Abdul Saliu."

But this time it had to be either a Japenese, a Haitian, a Cameroonian or an Indian for the only Nigerian in the team was back defending. We trailed for long and by the 85th minute, thoughts of previous failures kept haunting my mind and the Mohun Bagan fan in me was preparing myself for another year of pain but somewhere deep down the Manchester United fan kept believing and the famous words of Clive Tyldesley from 1999 final when Beckham was going up to take the first corner of injury time kept playing in my mind, "Can they score? They always score."

Sony Norde has been impressive all season. Photograph - Zee news India

In the 87th minute, Sony Norde got a corner from the similar left hand side. He floated in a ball into the 6 yard box and as fate would have it, the only Nigerian on the pitch rose like a pheonix directly into Mohun Bagan folklore. I cannot tell you what happened next, neither can my father nor can my uncle who came back 3 days prior to his schedule from the U.S. in time to catch this match, for we were all in tears. We hugged each other and I did not want to let go. They had seen every previous championship victory.  For me this was the first. I ran throughout my entire locality with fellow passionate supporters. All of us then went to the Mohun Bagan area in Shyambazar. We were bathed in green and maroon.
The victory was not just the washing away of 13 years of agony, it was the return of Kolkata football in the National stage. This was one moment in time that a generation will not forget. And yet again it was an Indian coach and yet again on the final day of the season, it was a Nigerian.

Thank you Bello. Thank you Debjit Majumdar. Thank you Sanjoy Sen. Thank you Mohun Bagan.
The tears drops are still fresh and the emotions still high. This will take some time to sink in.

Football, Bloody Hell!"

Mohun Bagan fans at the Kantareeva, Bangalore. Photograph -

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