By Kaustav Bera
After the disastrous derby on December 9th, which saw Syed Rahim Nabi being struck by a stray missile on his head and Mohun Bagan refusing to take the pitch in the second half in protest and also fearing for the safety of the players, it is finally time for Kolkata derby part II, on February 9th.
After the shenanigans of that day, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) had taken a bold step to ban the club for a period of two years from India's top tier football league with them considered having withdrawn from the present campaign, but after massive outrage and lack of precedents, the Indian FA softened its stand to a monetary fine and the Mariners having to start the league from scratch, with all points deducted before the derby and the derby itself being awarded to East Bengal.
With East Bengal running amok at the top of the table, within a clear shout of going one step further, than the consecutive second place finishes in the past two seasons, it's an entirely different story for Mohun Bagan who are left to chase scraps as they look to move themselves away from the ever realistic threat of potential relegation.
That, in no way however demeans the Kolkata Derby as form and table positions are a small subtext in the bigger picture on derby day. Especially, this time with Mohun Bagan out of the title chase, this will be their sole chance of giving their dejected supporters something to cheer. So, you can very well expect a tough battle where both teams would look to outdo each other.
After the scenes at the last derby, the game will be closely monitored given the accusations levelled by Mohun Bagan secretary Anjan Mitra stating that East Bengal were responsible for violent scenes.
"Nabi is injured, the safety and security was at stake. East Bengal was host team and under the rules, ticket distribution is their responsibility. Also if a player is injured, they are liable to be suspended. These are AIFF rules. We adopt rules of AIFF, which is part of FIFA."Anjan Mitra has also reached out to his counterpart at East Bengal, saying that if they were willing, he was ready to hold a joint press conference to request the fans to maintain order during the match. However, predictably the Red and Gold politely rejected the offer.
The AIFF too has been circumspect, with I-League security advisor, Mr. BK Roka ( President of Sikkim Football Association ) already in Kolkata and having met the club officials, decided on extended security during the match including installation of close circuit cameras.
The Green and Maroons have done their bit too, to make their spectators aware of the situation by issuing a 'DO's and DONT's' pamphlet with the match ticket. The leaflet says that they do not want a repeat of 16th August, 1980 (when the Eden Gardens Stadium saw 16 deaths due to a stampede at a Calcutta Football League match). It also appeals to the spectators to be peaceful during the match, and to uphold the glorious tradition of football in Bengal. Besides, the usual advisory of not bringing in things like blades, water bottles et al which can be used as missiles.
For East Bengal's part, coach Trevor James Morgan has also said that the safety of the fans' and players' is his primary concern, as he told The Telegraph
“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"
However, even in spite of the advisories and appeals from everyone, it will be ultimately left to the spectators, the 70,000 odd who have to ensure that the Kolkata derby will be a good footballing spectacle that Bengal and India can present to the world, with their heads held high.
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What do YOU think will happen in the Derby? Who will come out on TOP? Will East Bengal slip up in the title race or will Mohun Bagan go closer to relegation? LET us know..