Subrata Bhattacharya and Prasun Banerjee were best of friends during their playing days. In early 1970’s they joined Mohun Bagan as two fresh faced footballers who would eventually become club legends. They wouldnai??i??t have thought that they would have become legends on 29th September, 1975. On that fateful they sat shivering inside a boat on the river Ganges as irate Mohun Bagan fans caused havoc in the club tent. The Green & Maroons had just suffered a 5-0 loss at the hands of East Bengal in the IFA Shield Final, worse, that match was played in the Mohun Bagan ground. The fans had enough of their team and surrounded the club tent after the match. Some of them set fire to trees in front of the club tent. The players were afraid to come out while some escaped like Subrata and Prasun. They were finally rescued by Sailen Manna with the help of a searchlight. Bhaskar Ganguly, the ai???keeper who let in 4 goals in that match was escorted by his close friends in order to shield him from the wrath of Bagan fans. Hundreds of Mohun Bagan fans also surrounded the playersai??i?? mess in Elliot Road.

Mehtab Hussain, probably the best Indian footballer of last season was shocked to see the reactions of East Bengal fans. Despite being their best player for most parts of last 2 years, angry fans accused him of accepting bribes and questioned his commitment to the team. This was not a date in volatile seventies but in 2012. East Bengal had slumped to an embarrassing 4-1 loss at the hands of Aryan Club. Trevor James Morgan, the man hailed by EB faithful a few months ago had retired into the dressing room even before the final whistle went off. Morgan got irritated at the constant jeering from fans and got tangled in an argument. He was spat at and pelted with bottles; East Bengal players received the same treatment when the match ended. Players were not allowed to leave the field for almost half an hour after the match, until mounted police intervened.

Alvito D Counha pleading with East Bengal fans

On seeing this match, both media and ex-footballers, coaches shared their experience about facing such crowd wrath. After losing to Wari in 1978, Bhaskar Ganguly was assaulted by East Bengal fans till he was rescued by Police. In 1969, East Bengal drew with Port Trust, Subhash Bhowmik could not return home for two days after this match. PK Banerjee recalled how a supporter once tore off his shirt collar when East Bengal was drawing 0-0 with Bhratri Sangha at half time! In 1977, a star studded Mohun Bagan team lost the seasonai??i??s first derby to East Bengal. As a result the fans didnai??i??t allow the players to train in open air for a week.

Last year, Mohun Bagan players including Rakesh Masih were on the receiving end of fan attacks. Even Subrata Bhattacharya, a club legend, was slapped by a Mohun Bagan fan when he was coach of Chirag United (now Prayag United). Veteran Amal Dutta was not spared the treatment either. He was assaulted by a group of Mohun Bagan fans in late 1990s who accused him of accepting bribes.

Such incidents are not always directed towards players of oneai??i??s own club. Mohun Bagan fans reportedly threw bottles and stones at Churchill Brothers players in 2010, injuring Ogba Kalu in the process. Prayag United fans have been assaulted by both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan fans in recent times. Mohammedan SC fans have often taken their anger out on the officials. Even the IFA office has often been vandalized, sometimes at the behest of officials. Such incidents are rare in other states but not entirely uncommon. On 30th January, 2006 Mickky Pacheco led 2000 angry Fransa Pax fans into damaging Nehru Stadium after a dubious 2-1 loss to Mahindra United.

Fans of Kolkata clubs are infamous for the passionate support of their respective clubs. Emotions often run high and out of control, resulting in incidents mentioned above. It is never a crime to love a football team but when this love creates unnecessary pressure on players, then there is a problem. In Kolkata maidan, a player can be placed on a high pedestal one day and pulled down from it the very next day. Fans have extremely high expectation and when a performance doesnai??i??t meet those expectations, violence and jeering is a natural reaction. This has a highly negative impact on players. They do not get the support needed to come out of a bad phase instead they have to leave the field in dread after a bad match. In the last one and a half decade a number of players and coaches have found more success after migrating to Goa. Unnecessary pressure from fans has often been cited as a reason why Goan clubs have been more successful in recent years.

Another problem is how indulgent and indifferent the authorities are in this matter. After the debacle in East Bengal-Aryan match, an East Bengal official reportedly told that he supported the fans’ reaction. He also mentioned that facing anger from fans would keep the team under pressure and help them to perform. Subrata Bhattacharya once said that officials in Kolkata maidan should try to educate the fans more, instead of often inflaming them.

A referee being protected by Police after a KFL match

Emotional reactions from fans are not uncommon around the world. Two seasons back French defender Jonathan Zebina was subjected physical attack by a Juventus fan. Lazio ultras routinely invade the clubai??i??s training grounds when they are unhappy. Most recently, a fan attacked the AZ Alkmar goalkeeper in a high profile Eredivisie match between Ajax and AZ. Fans will always get emotional but it is the duty to IFA and AIFF to provide enough security to players in order to keep them safe from extremist reactions. As it is, Kolkata doesn’t have a stellar record in crowd control. Even cricket, which is better managed than football in India, has seen rioting and cancellation of matches due to fan unrest in Eden Gardens.

The emotional connect Mohun Bagan, East Bengal or Mohammedan SC fans feel with their respective clubs is one of the greatest things in Kolkata football. It has ensured that these clubs enjoy a long and fruitful existence. However, the time has come now that such extremist reactions are tampered. Otherwise a day will come when players and coaches will decline the priced offer of getting employed by a Kolkata club. No football player or coach deserves to be spat at and this incident was a disgrace which should not be repeated.

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2 Responses to “Indian Football : Fan Violence in Kolkata Football – Time to Change?”

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  1. Goutam Sur says:

    Because of these Kolkata fans still football is alive in Kolkata. Kolkata shows that 1 lakh fan in Mohunbagan East Bengal match and few thousand( not even 5 figure) in International cricket matches in Eden Garden. When all over India Cricket has eaten all other games, only in Kolkata, Goa and NorthEastern Region football is becoming more and more popular. Remember only fans can save football and other game from Cricket. Don’t criticize them. They love football, they dream football cry for football. In India all games are dying because of cricket and so called media, Kolkata fans are bringing golden days of Indian football. This is good sign. Players , coaches, officials will be more responsible. MNCs will invest more on Football than in Cricket.

  2. KSS says:

    @goutam….i believe u dint read the article 😛