The new season at Kolkata maidan kicked-off with a U-19 Kolkata Derby as arch-rivals East Bengal and Mohun Bagan locked horns in the final of Zee Bangla Football League held at the East Bengal club ground.
Both the youth teams had won all their matches in the league stage and were ready to face each other in the grand final of the tournament hosted by Zee Group and in association with the Indian Football Association (IFA).
Apparently, to increase the entertainment value of the tournament, the organisers came up with an out-of-the-box idea of dividing the matches into four quarters of 15 minutes each.
East Bengal were the more dominant side in the first three-quarters of the match. East Bengal took the lead via a penalty goal at the stroke of half time. Star player Manichand Singh, who has been promoted to the senior team this season, scored from the spot in the 30th minute.
The Red and Golds colts could have buried the game in the third quarter of the match itself had they been clinical in front of the goal. The home side failed to tap in two golden opportunities.
Bagan took advantage of East Bengal’s complacency and scored the equaliser at the beginning of the fourth and final quarter. Striker Koushik Santra converted a simple header from a throw-in to restore parity in the game.
In the 50th minute of the match, East Bengal goalkeeper Ayon Roy committed a silly foul on Mohun Bagan’s Subha Ghosh inside the box and gave away a penalty. Koushik completed his brace from the penalty spot to give the away side the lead.
There was plenty of drama that unfolded thereafter as the home fans were unhappy with the referee’s decision to award a penalty. The supporters started hurling bottles onto the pitch, targeting the match officials. The referee immediately stopped the game and it never restarted due to security concerns.
The fate of the match will be decided by a committee formed by IFA and organisers Zee’s officials as suggested by the IFA secretary Utpal Ganguly.
On the chaos that ensued, Ganguly said, “Whatever happened was very unfortunate. The game should have continued. I also feel that more security should have been provided. I had told the organisers to conduct the final at a neutral venue but they chose to go ahead with the East Bengal ground.
“A final decision on the match will be taken by a committee comprising of representatives from IFA and Zee.”
This competition was an entertainment extravaganza which had very little football on it. The organisers focused more on the on-field drama and showmanship rather than concentrating on organising a serious football tournament.
Kolkata Derby is all about emotions of the fans of both sides and it has invited controversy on multiple occasions in the past. Hence it was highly irresponsible from the side of the organisers to not think about safety and security in such a high voltage match.