Calcutta: Trevor James Morgan was very upset. Not because his team failed to beat bottom-placed Mohun Bagan, but for the poor turnout at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday.
Only 25,000 spectators watched Saturday’s I-League Derby and Morgan did not like that.
“It’s a disgrace. How can you price the tickets so high? Minimum price was Rs 200. True fans were denied a chance to watch this match. I am really disappointed. It was an anti-climax. This city is so passionate about football. And look what happened today,” Morgan did not mince his words.
After the December 9 fracas, which was ‘hosted’ by East Bengal, there was a growing fear that something similar might happen during the return-leg. Bagan, in a smart move, to weed out the disturbing elements priced the tickets very high.
“The fear factor did not play… It’s the price of the tickets that prevented the people from coming to the Stadium. All the supporters may not be from a stable economically. How can they afford Rs 200 for a ticket?” Morgan was talking sense.
Bagan secretary Anjan Mitra though defended the absurd pricing. “When Lionel Messi came calling, the ticket rates were also high. But 80,000 watched... Why is everyone raising a hue and cry over ticket prices? We are setting a trend. If you want to watch your favourite club play, then shell out money. And 25,000 is good by I-League standards. In the end, spectators were happy and comfortable. That is what we wanted to give to the supporters. We would like other clubs to follow us”
Mitra then made a ludicrous comment.
“Salt Lake Stadium does not have the infrastructure to accommodate 1 lakh spectators. We will suggest only 50,000 should be allowed. Or else shift football to Eden Gardens. Eden Gardens was originally for football. Cricket should be played in a stadium like Salt Lake,” Mitra said.
Well, Mitra seems to have completely lost it!
The other Mitra, sports minister Madan, though was not happy with the ticket-pricing. “It’s a people’s game. I am happy that everything went off peacefully. But pricing was unfair. We will request the clubs to have Rs 50 tickets also.”
Bagan coach Karim Bencharifa also supported his club’s decision. “We want more fans to come and support us. But the atmosphere was very good today,” the Moroccan said.
But East Bengal’s Ishfaq Ahmed, who got a standing ovation for his brilliant performance on Saturday, felt playing at the near-empty stadium was a bit weird.
“Playing in front of a full house always gives a player a kick. But today was different. I think if you do not price the tickets sensibly, football will suffer,” he said.