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Diehards to debutants, fans score

- East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan at Salt Lake stadium: priceless

The youngster sneaked into his father’s car when told to stay home; the veteran fought with his wife to attend the season’s big match; the physical education teacher brought his boys to jot down player movements for a project.

Metro found football derby diehards and debuting devotees among the 80,000-plus fans during Sunday’s East Bengal-Mohun Bagan match at the Salt Lake stadium. “The tie lasted 90 minutes but the memories of another EB-MB classic will stay forever,” said an EB fan after dialling his fish supplier to keep a kilo or two of ilish for dinner.

First-timers

Anujit, 10, pestered his father since afternoon but trader Surajit Chakraborty, an East Bengal fan, was in no mood to indulge his son. After he reached Shyambazar to pick up two friends, Chakraborty found his son crouching in the gap between the rear and driver’s seats. “I didn’t want him in the stadium… so many expletives fly there. But he left me with little choice,” he said.

“I love football and two of my friends had watched a match in the stadium. I had a great time,” said Anujit, a Class V student of a Sovabazar school.

Priyanka Dutta, 18, was another debutant. “My friend is a football freak and keeps telling me about the game and the players. He would often ask me to accompany him and watch a match. On Sunday, I agreed,” she said, the awe visible on the face.

Veterans

For retired railway employee Gautam Majumder, 69, the East Bengal-Mohun Bagan face-off on Sunday was the 185th derby match he had attended. “My wife wanted to visit our daughter at Tollygunge. But I said, ‘match first’. That’s it… a shouting session followed but I dug in my heels. Here I am… in the stadium,” Majumder said. His post-match plan: cook dinner to celebrate East Bengal’s win and soothe frayed nerves.

Sector V techies Krishanu Das and Tridip Roy are regulars too. Friend and colleague Debadrita Sarkar, a first-timer, was with them. They reached the stadium one-and-a-half hours before kick-off — to soak in the vibrant atmosphere by walking around the stadium, clicking pictures of fans singing slogans, writing placards, bursting crackers and waving gigantic team flags.

“This is my 25th derby and Debadrita is with us today… I think we have been able to impress her,” said Krishanu, an East Bengal diehard.

Comeback man

Howrah trader Utsab Biswas had stopped bringing his wife to the derby matches since the December 9, 2012, incident where at least 40 fans were wounded in a clash between rival fans. He was back with wife Pinky and debutante Arka, his son, on Sunday.

“The December 9 incident was frightening. But the matches have been peaceful of late. I could feel a lot of camaraderie and good-natured rivalry among the fans today,” said Biswas, whose deals in motor parts. He left the stadium with a heavy heart, though. Mohun Bagan lost.

Data boys

As East Bengal midfielder Lalrindika Ralte netted the game-clincher in the 73rd minute, a collective roar and an unbelieving “oh no!” shook the stadium. Amid that cacophony, a 45-year-old man and 12 young students maintained stoic silence in the East Bengal gallery and scribbled away on sheets of paper.

“We are doing a project on sports management. Each of us are tracking a player and noting down their movements, ball possession, timings and skills,” said Asish Paul, an assistant teacher at Jadavpur University’s department of physical education. Paul, a Mohun Bagan fan, was so engrossed that he didn’t even let out a sigh when the rivals scored.

Paul said he would tell his students a lot about football and game plan, but “learning from a derby match was a different experience”. “At the end of the game, we’ll collate the data and based on it, the students will compile a project on game plan management,” he added.