Barabati Stadium, Cuttack
Live on Ten Action+- 6:00 PM – 02.10.2010
“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.”
Bill Shankley’s legendary quote perfectly defines the craze and hoopla around the Kolkata Derby. India may not be the most organized or most skilled footballing nation; we may not be having the best facilities – but all these “have not”s will take the back seat on Saturday. We, Indian fans, will be reminded that we have the Kolkata Derby.
It is the biggest and most intense match in India. It can easily make its way into the hall of fame of on-the-edge derby games. You think El Clasico is exciting? Do step into the cauldron that Yuva Bharati Krirangan turns into during a derby game. The match attracts an average of 60,000 to 80,000 people. With Green&Maroon as well as Red&Gold flags fluttering across the 2nd largest football stadium in the world, the atmosphere is second to none. Even Sepp Blatter was impressed by the derby climate during one of his visits.
Some of the biggest derbies in the world are fueled by a socio-political background. Old Firm derby has its roots in the Catholic – Protestant clash, Superclasico has its base in the rich and poor divide. The Kolkata Derby is hardly an exception.
The derby is about the social divide that existed between Ghotis and Bangals. Bangals hailed from Eastern part of greater Bengal (now Bangladesh). They had a different ways of dressing and culinary habits but it was their very distinctive Bengali dialect (called Bangal also) that set them apart. Late 19th century satirists Dinobandhu Mitra and Kaliprasanna Singha depict how the Bangals were lampooned by the people in Kolkata for their habits. The Ghotis, on the other hand, were people from the Western part of Bengal. A sense of animosity existed between the two groups.
The rivalry seeped into football when Mohun Bagan, refused to include two players of Bangal origin in their team. Some officials left the club and established East Bengal. The name of the club itself suggested that the Bangals had now found an institution to identify themselves with. The first derby took place in 1925, East Bengal winning 1-0. The rivalry was still in its nascent stage. It rose to its current heights in post-1947 after the partition of India. Millions poured in from then East Pakistan, most of these people started backing East Bengal.
The famous rivalry has been subject to many films and books over the years. Sukumar Dasgupta’s 1954 film – Ora Thake Odhare (They live on the other side) has a hilarious segment where Ghotis and Bangal’s together listen to a radio commentary of a derby. Legendary actors Chhabi Biswas and Bhanu Banerjee performed the roles of a Ghoti and Bangal respectively. Narayan Gangopdhayay’s iconic series of Tenida also shows the rivalry. Tenida, Pelaram and Kebla are Bagan supporters, while Habul, unique for speaking in Bangal accent, supports East Bengal. Staying true to the gastronomical side of Bengali life the derby is often called the clash of ‘Ilish and Chingri’. Ilish (Hilsa fish) was a staple food of the Bangals, while Ghoti’s feasted on the jumbo prawn or “Galda Chingri”. Respective fishes would often be cooked & sent to a rivals house to rub further salt to a recent loss.
Over the years, clashes between the teams have been violent. In 1980, 16 people died at the Eden gardens as fights broke out in the crowd. Fans from either side have often suffered heart-attacks due to excitement.
All time stats favour the Red and Golds, who have won more head to head encounters – 264 vs 209. That stat and East Bengal’s 5-0 demolishing victory over Bagan in 1975 IFA Shield had given the bragging rights to East Bengal fans over the years. But Bagan’s recent success against their rivals, including a 5-3 win in last year’s I-League has given something to cheer about for the Bagan faithful.
Way to the Final
East Bengal qualified for the final with a cent percent wining record – infact they are yet to lose a match this season. They have not only won all their Fed Cup matches, but have steamrolled the opposition in most cases. Trevor Morgan has brought a sense of relaxation and frolic in the dressing room, which is reflecting on their play. On Thursday, the whole team celebrated Morgan’s birthday, as a party atmosphere prevailed in the camp.
By the standards they have set till now, East Bengal’s performance in semi-final was not that fluid. Odafa frequently troubled their defence and their midfield was crowded out at times. Tolgey Ozbey continued his journey towards super-stardom with another stellar performance in that game. He scored the lone goal, but also missed a spot kick. Mehtab Hussain led bravely in the midfield. However, their key player against Churchill Brothers was centre-back Oga Okpara, he was rock solid in the face of Odafa onslaught and frequently covered for his fellow defenders.
Pen Orji has become the engine of this Red&Gold team. Entitled to play the free roaming role just behind the strikers, he has performed way over expectation. Soumik and Vasum has been lively on the wings pumping in perfect crosses for the strikers to poach in. Another positive for East Bengal is the presence of a quality reserve bench – Abhra, Ekene, Budiram, Sanju – all are proven talents and can change the course of the match single-handedly on their own day.
Mohun Bagan’s journey hasn’t been as smooth as their arch-rivals. They made a stuttering start in the group stages. Importantly, the team looks to be peaking at the right time. They thrashed Salgaocar in a do-or-die game. Against Indian champions Dempo, they started on a disastrous note. Lack of communication between centre-backs pairing of Sagaram Mandi and Azim led to a Ranty Martins goal within 2 minutes of the match. Dempo dominated then and almost extended the lead. Under these circumstances, 24 year old ‘keeper Shilton Paul rose to the occasion. Playing like his namesake he became unbreachable as he kept the Green and Maroons in the match. His pinpoint saves to Beto, Martins and Rodriguez ultimately made the difference.
Coach Stanley Rosario trumped his opponent tactically in 2nd half by bringing on Edeh Chidi, while pegging Jose Barreto back as a deep-lying play-maker. Introduction of Senhashis as a left winger in place of Ishfaq futher made the difference. Gouranga and Snehashis’s darting runs through the flanks weakened the Dempo defence. Barreto combined with Manish to neutralize Beto and Kalu in Dempo’s 5 man midfield. It was Chidi who scored the equalizer. Substitute ‘keeper Sangram Mukherjee once again turned the tie-breaker hero as Bagan won 5-3 in penalties.
Tactically East Bengal’s 4-3-3 is a more modern approach to Bagan’s 4-4-2, which is fast losing its importance. On the other hand, 4-4-2 gives Bagan more width on the wings, which might cause problems to East Bengal’s 3 man midfield. Both the first choice wingers for Bagan, Ishfaq and Gouranga Dutta will miss the final due to suspension and injury respectively. This somewhat weakens them, though Snehashis can be an actual improvement over Ishfaq. If Chidi doesn’t start then Ashim might start on the wings.
Keeping the 2nd half performance against Dempo in mind, Stanley Rosario might start with Barreto as a playmaker, while partnering Chidi with Muritala upfront. Though a 4-4-2 on paper, it will turn into a 4-3-1-2 as the match progresses.
East Bengal’s 4-3-3 often turns to a 4-3-1-2 also. Penn Orji plays in a free roaming role behind Tolgay and Robin., while Mehtab playing the deep lying playmaker’s role. Robin’s immense work-rate with Tolgay’s instincts makes them a perfect pair. The former also has a good ability to hold up the ball, while dragging defenders out of position.
The defending champions hold an edge in the midfield with Mehtab and Harmanjot in good form. Bagan are yet to settle on a stable central-midfield combo, youngster Manish Mathani has performed admirably, but his makeshift partner Diamondstar has often looked like a liability.
Bagan will be bolstered by the form of much maligned ‘keeper Shilton. The young custodian performed brilliantly against both Shillong Lajong and Dempo. Fatigue will be an issue for Bagan, as they played a grueling 120 minutes against Dempo on Thursday.
This is the 6th time that the Fed Cup final has turned into a stage for Kolkata Derby. Both clubs were joint winners in 78-79 and 80-81. Mohun Bagan enjoys dominance in the later exchanges. The last time East Bengal won a final against Bagan was back in 85-86. Since then Bagan has won each of the three finals. They won 6-5 in tie-breaker in 86-87, 2-0 in 1992 and 2-1 in 1998. In last two editions, the two giants had faced off in semi-final, East Bengal winning 2-0 last year, while Bagan triumphed in tie-breaker in 2008.
Possible starting XI
Mohun Bagan: Shilton Paul, Kingshuk Debnath, Seikh Azim, Sagaram Mandi, R. Dhanarajan, Manish Maithani, Snehashish, Ashim Biswas, Okwy Diamondstar, Jose Ramirez Barreto, Muritala Ali.
East Bengal : Sandip Nandi, Naoba Singh, Nirmal Chhetri, Uga Okpara, Soumik Dey, Reisangmi Vasum, Mehtab Hossain, Penn Ikechukwu Orji, Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Robin Singh, Tolgay Ozbey
Players to watch out for:
Tolgey Ozbey (East Bengal): The Australian born player of Turkish origin has quickly turned into a darling of the fans. He started the tournament with a brace against Air India, he scored East Bengal’s winning goal in the semi-final. In a recent interview he expressed his intention to win the Fed Cup as it will ensure a passage to AFC Cup. If he decides to follow his words with action, it might spell trouble for the Bagan defence.
Jose Ramirez Barreto (Mohun Bagan): After scoring 200 goals, this man is still the driving force behind the Green and Maroon. A model professional, Barreto not only played in the midfield against Dempo, but also helped the defenders when needed. He is the most creative player for Bagan and can create ample opportunities for the goal-scorers Chidi and Muritala.
This is the match which throws the form-book and everything else out of the window. You can’t predict a result in this derby – form, class, skill, everything becomes secondary – the team which can hold the nerves in the crucial moments will come out triumphant.
TheHardTackle’s Blast From The Past:
1. East Bengal 3-0 Mohun Bagan – I-League 2008/09
2. Mohun Bagn 5-3 East Bengal : I-League 2009/10
3. East Bengal 2-1 Mohun Bagan : Fed Cup Semi Final 2009/10
4. Mohun Bagan 2-0 East Bengal : I-League 2007/08
5. 2009/10 Fed Cup Final : East Bengal vs Shillong Lajong
TheHardTackle’s LIVE Update Coverage for the match will follow 15 mins prior to the start of the match.
It will be an interactive session. You can comment and provide updates too as the match progresses. Here goes the link: