Calcutta: Courtesy December 9, the passion and hype surrounding the city Derby have reached an altogether different level.
Every possible step is being taken to ensure that it’s a safe Saturday when East Bengal face Mohun Bagan in the I-League return leg, at the Salt Lake Stadium, the venue which was witness to ugly scenes in the first leg Derby.
At the end of the day, it’s all about the ‘beautiful game’ and fans should enjoy the rivalry and not use it as an excuse to hurt each other. Trevor James Morgan emphasised just that on Thursday.
During a chat with The Telegraph, on Thursday, Morgan appealed to supporters, of both the teams, not to get involved in any violence.
“I understand the passion of the supporters, since there’s history of the rivalry between the clubs. So it’s obvious that supporters will cheer for their team in the best way possible. But it shouldn’t turn into something ugly. Come to the ground and enjoy the game, but ensure that every one reaches home safely,” Morgan said.
The Englishman is in his third season as the East Bengal coach and he certainly knows a thing or two about the ‘side-effects’ of a Derby. Reactions often go overboard and if it’s a loss, the losing coach gets the flak. No matter how good they have been overall, the fans focus just on the Derby result. But Morgan, who had come from a different football culture, doesn’t find it disturbing.
“Honestly, I don’t feel that the fans’ overreaction is disturbing… There will obviously be expectations from your team… But they should be realistic. Ever since I came here, East Bengal have reached three Federation Cup finals, and have also won the Super Cup. Twice we’ve been second in the I-League and we’re striving to win it this time. So it will be fair to say that we’ve progressed to being one of the top two teams in India,” Morgan explained.
“Still, people sometimes criticise East Bengal just for the sake of it. I really find that strange,” he rued.
The Saturday Derby may be special for the fans, but for Morgan a victory counts much more than sentiments. “It’s for spectators to treat the match differently… As for us, all that matters is securing full points from the game. That’s it,” Morgan was loud and clear.
Going back to the first-leg encounter, in which his boys dominated the match before Bagan refused to continue playing citing security issues, Morgan said: “In our own minds, we knew we had won the game. It was disappointing though for not being able to carry on till 90 minutes… The 90,000-strong crowd too missed out on the second half. Circumstances simply dictated the fate of that match.”
If right spirit is what is needed for Saturday’s high-voltage Derby, well, Morgan has shown the way.