Derbies are not about league positions or title race, they are about getting one over your fiercest rivals. When Mohun Bagan host East Bengal at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium for the 24th Kolkata Derby in I-League, sparks will fly.
The Mariners and the Red and Golds have faced off more than 300 times in the history of Indian football and the derby on Sunday could very well be their final meeting in the I-League.
Both these Kolkata giants have gone public about their wish to join the Indian Super League (ISL) and are working behind the scenes to get it done.
East Bengal sold 70 per cent of their shares to a private investor and was rebranded as Quess East Bengal as they made their first move to be a part of the ISL. While they could not be part of the Reliance-Star-owned league this year, it is only a matter of time before the Alejandro Menendez and his players jump ship.
Before the 2018-19 season commenced, Debabrata Sarkar, a member of the executive committee at East Bengal, had said, "If ISL decides to reopen bidding, East Bengal will definitely submit a bid. They (Quess) are prepared to spend even INR 100 CR if required. Budget is not a problem. The entire expenditure will be borne by them."
Mohun Bagan are also set to submit a bid to join ISL and will soon announce a private investor before they make the bid. The shareholders transferred their shares fully to parent entity Mohun Bagan Athletic Club and are set to announce a private investor before making their bid for ISL.
East Bengal and Mohun Bagan need to play in the same league, not only because of the quality of football they bring to the table but also because the historical Kolkata derby rivalry needs to continue. Indian football will be better for the same.
East Bengal chairman Ajit Isaac also affirmed the intention when he spoke to Goal, "It's a great occasion to have these two teams play against each other. It's a true sporting encounter on any occasion and in any format. It is something that we will all look forward to irrespective of which side we belong to. So, if it does happen (both teams into the ISL), it is great."
Mohun Bagan's football secretary Swapan Banerjee put it perfectly when he told Goal, "East Bengal cannot play ISL without Mohun Bagan's support. Only if we support then East Bengal can play ISL. Both teams will play the ISL together or both won't."
And now it looks like the rivalry is set to continue, but just not in the I-League.