a Amra kara? Mohun Bagan
Jitche kara? Mohun Bagan
Bharat sera kara? Mohun Bagana
The chant, that echoed the domestic terminal of the Kolkata airport on Monday afternoon, as the players made their way to the bus, awaiting to take them to the clubhouse. The chant when translated stands as a Who are we? Mohun Bagan; Who are winning? Mohun Bagan; Who are the champions of India? Mohun Bagan.a
Fans in tens of thousands had flocked to airport to welcome their heroes thus creating a boisterous atmosphere from 11:30 am knowing full well that the players were expected to arrive at 1 pm. The fans were eager just to catch a glimpse of the newly crowned I-league champions. Even hawkers, selling their own custom made merchandise, were present at the airport selling their goods at a premium price for the fans. The hawkers admitted to have made quite a healthy amount of profit at the end of the day. But the fans hardly carded about the premium price and were quite happy to shell out the premium prices as they were happily waiting for their team. Fans were quite ecstatic that the team was finally crowned the national champions after more than a decade long wait – 13 years to be exact which made it even more sweeter. The older fans saw the trophy as an end of the now infamous curse of Saliua s tears, while the younger fans finally witnessed the ecstasy of being national champions and the tension of a almost near heartbreak.
Heartbreak it could have been, Sonya s strike hitting the crossbar and the Johnsona s goal from the next attack meant the the Mohun Bagan fans were staring at another trophy-less season and the idea was growing at the back of their mind. And when Johnson made a double clearance before the half time, the murmur had grown louder. Some started expressing their opinion citing the failure of Churchill Brother, while others pointed towards the referee to express their frustration. But as the saying goes, a What doesna t kill you, makes you strongera – the fans made sure that the man who headed the trophy back to its a homea , Bello Razzaq, received the loudest cheers wherever the team went be it the airport, or in Baguihati where the fans felicitated the players and staff or the clubhouse. Even the police force which was allotted for the security found it quite tough to handle the fans who tried to approach Bello and company.
The result of building a balanced team is the trophy at the end of the season. But credit even if slightly should go to Subhas Bhowmick for building the team during the pre season, and the rest to Sanjoy Sen for making key additions to the teams and seeing out the campaign with his pragmatic approach. Both managers may have their drawbacks, Subhas with his too much tinkering in player positions and Sanjoy for his apathy to substitute players earlier which could have allowed the fans to not undergo such a nerve wrecking final round. Mohun Bagan under Subhas Bhowmick played the Calcutta Football League but he will be cursing his luck for a poor start to his campaign. Pibo, as written on the back of the shirt, needed a bit more time to get into groove, while the flair of Sony was missing as he was yet to be signed up. The Federation Cup proved the final testing ground for Mohun Bagan before they released their sharpened knife for the I-League campaign.
Despite all the excitement of the last few weeks of the season, the start of the season also deserve a mention. Thanks to Sonya s Flair, Piboa s class and Yusaa s hard working nature, Mohun Bagan made a blistering start to their season and went on undefeated for 12 rounds. The unbeaten run set the course for the season for Bagan but it came to halt against in an away encounter against Royal Wahingdoh. The defeat marked the start of the mid season blip for Bagan. After being released last season, Odafa had something to prove and was inspired against Bagan to score goals. Odafaa s brace meant that Mohun Bagan lost the encounter in Goa but it was also signified that Bengaluru FC caught up with them after negating the early season lead.
The major tactical change that Sanjoy Sen made was to accommodate the trio of Katsumi Yusa, Pierre Boya and Sony Norde. Boya was pulled back to play the #10 role while Yusa shifted to the right and Sony with his Inside Left role allowing him to cut inside and shoot. Bikramjit, Sehnaj and Shoubhik finally adapted to their roles as dual blockers in the i-league thus allowing even more freedom to the attacking trio. Bello was the leader constantly shouting out instructions to organise the defence. It would be unjust if nothing is said about Debjit Majumder. The goalie, only found his place in the starting 11 after Shilton was injured, but his display under the bar surely gave Bagan 8-10 points thus making making it hard to drop him. Debjit, against East Bengal, had a stupendous game as he made sure that Mohun Bagan goal wasna t breached with some courageous saves. The victory, over their eternal rivals, imbibed further confidence in Mohun Bagana s challenge for the championship.Once Debjit injured himself, Shilton regained his spot but not before a major blunder against Bharat FC thus clamouring calls for Debjita s return. Shilton however put in some impressive performances afterwards and helped his team win the title.
But the I-League trophy doesna t mean that everything is rosy behind the scene. Various controversies riddled the team throughout the season with payment issues hogging the limelight from mid season. The officials do claim the payment are lagging behind just a month but reports from various other media houses tend to suggest otherwise. The young domestic players are reported to be the worst sufferers from the scenario. The other controversy that affected the club was the Shardha scam where the bank accounts of all major Kolkata clubs were freezed for investigation. Sharada and various other chit fund ground have regularly sponsored Kolkata clubs in the past and in lieu of such investigation, the various chit fund groups tried to find a way out. As a result the funds dried up in the Kolkata clubs but that wasna t all, even the main sponsor(United Spirits Limited) decided to back out citing Mohun Bagana s involvement in the scam. In the end, they decided to sponsor till the end of season with a possible review after the end of season but paid only a fraction of the regular amount of sponsorship per year.
Mohun Bagan’ s win has reinstated Kolkata on the map of Indian Football as the last few seasons were dominated by the Goan clubs and then of course Bengaluru FC. The club should make sure that they hold the major core of this yeara s team while making key additions to the team. They should also make sure that the teams remains balanced on either sides and not only a top heavy side which has been a complaint from the fans for the previous few season.
Written By THT Guest Author Archak Sengupta. Follow the Author on Twitter