The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Red & gold glory, green & maroon misery

- This is a great sporting achievement. I used to be a member of East Bengal Club. Aami ekhono mone-prane East Bengal, and the club has made the country proud — Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, chief minister

- This is Mohun Bagan’s darkest hour. The great club is now split into two or three… This is most unfortunate. But I am happy for East Bengal — Jyoti Basu, former chief minister

The contrast was clear, even cruel, on Wednesday. Carrying forward the images of Tuesday. In one frame, Subhash Bhowmick and his Asean Club Cup-winning boys alighted from the Singapore Airlines flight in a red-and-gold blaze of glory, and waded into the worshipping embrace of thousands of ecstatic fans who had gathered at the airport, braving the nagging drizzle and the late July hour.

Pitted against this riot of revelry and colour, the picture in the maroon-and-green camp was dismal, even dark. By a simple twist of fate, Tuesday also happened to be Mohun Bagan Day, when the club commemorates its epochal win against the East Yorkshire Regiment sahibs to clinch the IFA Shield in 1911. The 70-odd former players, who turned up on the club lawns, seemed to be clutching at the sepia glory of 1911.

It was a case of past perfect and present tense, as the spectre of ugly faction feuds hung heavy over an evening already robbed of its sheen by the absence of quintessential Bagan greats Sailen Manna, Chuni Goswami and Subrata Bhattacharya. (Manna and Chuni were to share the stage later in the evening at St Xavier’s auditorium with Jyoti Basu at a book release function, organised by a rival faction of the club.) Club secretary Anjan Mitra, on Wednesday, put up a brave front: “It doesn’t matter who turned up and who didn't, since we were celebrating Mohun Bagan Day and no one is bigger than the institution.”

Chuni, while congratulating East Bengal for its Asean success, stressed there was no need for Bagan supporters to despair.

“It's not the end of the road. Bagan has momentarily fallen into a trough. But the two clubs are complementary to each other in the context of our football and there is every reason for us to rejoice in East Bengal's success.”

Whatever paliatives Goswami and Mitra have for die-hard Mohun Baganis, are surely not enough to lift the gloom, more so, when all the silverware is landing up at the arch-rivals' tent across the road. But what is it that sets today's all-conquering East Bengal apart from today's struggling Mohun Bagan'

"East Bengal has provided its coach and players with all the support they needed. They prepared for the Asean Club Cup in a focused manner, and the club showed great foresight in huddling the contingent together in a five-star hotel during the month-long preparation," observed Syed Nayeemuddin. The Dronacharya coach rushed from Mumbai just to be part of the "historic moment" when East Bengal touched down on Tuesday night.

Nayeemuddin felt good planning, lack of interference from officials and a congenial, tension-free atmosphere, have all contributed to the red-and-golds' triumph on foreign soil. "The players' needs were well looked after, and they were, in turn, eager to repay the club with on-field success," he said.

Email This Page