History and Future at Stake with Fans in Focus as East Bengal Face ATK Mohun Bagan in Kolkata Derby

Last Updated: February 25, 2023, 07:40 IST

ISL: East Bengal vs ATK Mohun Bagan in Kolkata derby (FSDL)

East Bengal FC and ATK Mohun Bagan face off in the Kolkata derby with both teams at either end of the Indian Super League points table

Kolkata has been the spiritual home of Indian football and even though the beautiful game has found its strong footing around the country, the city’s two fiercest rivals – East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, have remained the heartbeat.

Even before a child is born, he or she is sorted by their parents in either ‘red and gold’ or ‘green and maroon’. Such is the fandom.

Hence, the Kolkata derby naturally has become the battleground of not only the two sides but also their fanatic supporter bases.

At the ‘Boro match’, as the clash is locally known, abuses are hurled at sheer ferocity by both sides with constant reminders of past and recent results sprinkled in for good measure.

At their previous encounter, the first in the Indian Super League in Kolkata 29 October, a staggering 62,542 fans came to watch.

Hugo Boumous and Manvir Singh made the difference on that night as ATK Mohun Bagan defeated East Bengal FC for the seventh game on the trot.

ALSO READ | History of Kolkata Derby Between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan

East Bengal fans had little to cheer about for the rest of the season too as Stephen Constantine’s wards languished near the bottom of the table for most parts. The former India coach moaned about less time to prepare for the season initially, which eventually turned towards the quality of the players. Fans were not happy.

As the games progressed, the East Bengal faithful started to care less and less about their team, with an average attendance of barely 9,400. Their rivals, on the other hand, had almost 21,000.

On the eve of their clash at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, the team officials and fans clashed at the Mohammedan SC’s club ground during a ‘historic hockey match’.

The East Bengal fans have since taken to social media to call for a boycott of the derby, citing inaptitude and mismanagement from the officials. Ownership too, or rather the frequent changes, has been the cause of ire among the ‘red and gold’ brigade.

The Mariners have done better than the Torchbearers but poor performances in the closing half of the league phase has worried some. Frustrations over the identity of the club has alienated a section of the fans with calls of ‘Remove ATK’ seeing them not attend games too.

Tickets too became the contention for controversy after Mohun Bagan and East Bengal officials, as well as their investors, tussled over allotted free passes, which has reportedly been amicably resolved.

A win on Saturday will help ATK Mohun Bagan to confirm a top-four finish as it will hand them a home advantage in the playoff round. On the other hand, the Torch Bearers can reclaim ninth place from Jamshedpur FC with a win.

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