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‘Humbled’ Goenka accepts the reality of Kolkata Maidan

09:16 WAT 17/01/2020
Sanjiv Goenka Javie Lara Atletico de Kolkata celebrating after qualifying to the Hero ISL 2016 final
The business tycoon has had to take a step back and invest in Mohun Bagan instead…

It was after ATK won the second Indian Super League (ISL) title that the then co-owner Sanjiv Goenka made a bombastic claim. This was at a function where the club was celebrating their second title in three seasons.

“Have you ever seen this much frenzy for any other team in Kolkata? We are now much more popular than any other club in Kolkata,” exclaimed Goenka as he couldn’t hide his joy on achieving sporting success with the Kolkata franchise.

Just a little over two years later, Goenka’s RPSG Group announced that a new entity would come into existence in June 2020 with ATK and Mohun Bagan merging to form a new unit. RPSG Group would have 80 per cent stake of the new entity.

“RPSG Group which has a 200-year-old legacy is humbled and honoured to welcome Mohun Bagan with folded hands and open arms to the RPSG family,” said Goenka, probably realizing that the earlier statement was made in jest.

Ask any Bengalli and they are a fan of Mohun Bagan, East Bengal or Mohammedan Sporting. The rivalry between Bagan and East Bengal is ingrained in the culture of Bengal. The East Bengal fans are primarily supporters who hail from the modern-day Bangladesh and Bagan fans are those who are from West Bengal.

For ATK to develop a strong fan-base and even become relevant in the Maidan, it would take decades if not another century.  For the first two-to-three seasons, fans indeed flocked to the Salt Lake Stadium to watch ISL matches. However, these were Bagan and East Bengal supporters.

Following the statement from Goenka about being the biggest in the City of Joy, these fans stopped turning up for ISL matches and the average attendances began to drop.

For Goenka, to give up on ATK, a property in which he invested over Rs.200 crores in six seasons, is a major decision and one which highlights his maturity.

RPSG Group has a tagline of ‘Growing Legacies’ and certainly with their latest acquisition, ATK Mohun Bagan will create their own story for years to come.

The Late Shri Ram Prasad Goenka was known as the ‘takeover king’ and ‘guardian of Bengal Industry’. Now with the latest decision to merge ATK with Bagan and so to say take charge of one of the oldest institutions in world football, Sanjiv Goenka has followed in the footsteps of his father.