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The Kolkata Derby to reunite in Indian Super League

The Kolkata Derby to reunite in Indian Super League

The Kolkata Derby to reunite in Indian Super League
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By Abhishek Sarkar  Sept 29, 2020 7:07:36 AM IST (Updated)

With a history of over 100 years, the famed Kolkata Derby is all set to reunite on the stage of the Indian Super League this season. This classic rivalry, as we know, is one of the oldest rivalries in Asian football. Both clubs have dedicated fan bases around the world.

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The two teams first met during the Cooch Behar Cup which ended in a goalless draw, however, Mohun Bagan won the replay semifinal 3-0 by defeating East Bengal. Since then, the two teams have played 369 games with East Bengal winning 129 matches, while Mohun Bagan winning 119 of them. The rest 121 matches ended as draws.
While the two clubs have generally met in competitions like the I-League, Calcutta Football League, Durand Cup, Federation Cup and IFA Shield, etc., this time the clubs will face off by the backing of their new owners in India’s new premier football competition Indian Super League.
Mohun Bagan, one of Asia’s oldest football clubs, had merged with 3 times ISL champions ATK FC and had thus renamed the team as ATK Mohun Bagan FC. While East Bengal, after being taken over by HM Bangur, the owner of Shree Cement, is also set to enter the premier football competition.
The clash between these two also means that ATK, which enjoyed single-handed support from the city of joy, will now have a split fan base after the entry of the Red & Yellow brigade. The fans, however, have been rejoicing after the entry of these two heavyweight teams in ISL.
Arindom Saha, a long time Mohun Bagan fan who has been following the club for over 25 years, says, "Now the entire world will be seeing the Big Bengal Derby unfold, it is a matter of pride for us Bengalis that the world will be seeing this historic match. It is very important for Indian football also because ISL is a competition that attracts huge crowds which means more talented local players will now come in the fray and that gives them a massive opportunity to showcase their talent."
Chief Financial Officer of Airtel Africa, Jaideep Paul, has been an East Bengal fan for over 40 years; he feels "the younger generation does not have too much connection of the enmity between East Bengal & Mohun Bagan. The different level of soccer in the European leagues has given the current generation football lovers to break out of the emotional connect of the so-called Ghati v/s Bangal fight, but with higher standards of the game now, the emotional connection might be brought back."
East Bengal Real Power, a fan club of the football team in Kolkata, is also extremely elated with the club entering ISL and resuming battle with Mohun Bagan. Rabi Shankar Sen, a member of the fan club, says, "We are very happy that East Bengal will play in the ISL, our 100 years of the journey is a testament to the footballing glory of India and our rich contribution to the history of Indian football will be embellished further with our participation in India’s premier football competition." The cash-rich Indian Super League has managed to bring in some big names to India. Popular players like Freddie Ljungberg, Dimitor Berbatov, Nicolas Anelka & Raul Garcia have all played in the Indian Super League, hence attracting crowds to the stands and viewers hooked to the television.
Even the MD of Shree Cement and the new owner of East Bengal feels ISL is a premier competition. In a conversation with CNBC-TV18 last week, he said, "ISL is the competition between the best. East Bengal, Mohun Bagan & Mohameddan Sporting were the Eiffel clubs of Kolkata, I have no doubt that East Bengal will regain its past glory in the next 3 years."
"Time has to be spent, efforts have to be made and money has to be spent and all will be done."
In recent times, these two teams have mostly faced off in the I-League but unfortunately, it has been struggling to attract spectators thus affecting the viewership and popularity of the tournament and ever since the inception of ISL, the going got tougher for it.
Bengaluru FC was the first team to move to ISL in 2017 and now with the departure of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal as well, it will become even more difficult for I-league to compete with the ISL now. But for the fans of the two teams, this is a fixture that they will be looking forward to as they will now be able to watch their favorite Bengal Derby on the ISL stage.
This also means that it is an opportunity for the organizers to attract more fans and viewers to watch the star-studded football league and make this match especially the most awaited fixture in the league.
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