The rivalry between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal clubs as far as fantasy football is concerned is epical. This is surprising when we consider that the popularity of Football in India has been reserved in very well-defined pockets.
It is interesting how Cricket gradually but decidedly took over as the national favourite. Perhaps as a conspicuous deviation from trends across the country, Bengal has been the seat of Indian fantasy premier league football through many years. The other region where the game is extremely popular and promoted is the coastal state of Goa, with its Portuguese heritage.
Apart from these, fantasy football games have achieved some concentrated favor in Punjab and Kerala in addition to being the popular local sport in North-eastern India. Allowing for all these factors, a football fan outside Bengal will not be able to conceive the degree of intensity a Bengali Football fan will attach to the game. Nor will anyone unaccustomed to the fervor of the true Bengali nature begin to fathom the passionate rivalry that exists between the two clubs of the State.
Mohun Bagan Athletic Club
Mohun Bagan Athletic Club is Asia’s oldest sporting club and the first to defeat the British in colonial India. Founded on 15th of August 1889, the club was the flag-bearer of Indian nationalism from the very beginning. The date (July 29th, 1943) is ‘Mohun Bagan Day’ in the club calendar and a century later Rajiv Gandhi named Mohun Bagan as India’s national club and issued a postage stamp to commemorate what was essentially a victory of patriotism.
East Bengal Football Club
East Bengal Football Club was formed in 1920 to represent supporters from East Bengal, so-called because it was differentiated from the Western counterpart in undivided Bengal. Later, by the time East Bengal actually became Bangladesh, the club was already weaved inextricably into the matrix of Bengali football. At that time, the British restricted the number of Indian teams in the main league to two and Mohun Bagan and Aryan club were included. Incidentally, both teams had not supported promotion for East Bengal, leading to the beginning of a celebrated rivalry.
The passion behind the Mohun Bagan-East Bengal rivalry has been far from healthy at times. One of the reasons may be that the initial bitterness that was born out of socio-political happenings in eastern India, unfortunately, has not been erased even with time. The ‘Bangal‘ (East Bengali) – ‘Ghoti‘ (West Bengali) divide has been too rigid at times and it has had its influence in football too. The 1971 war of Independence saw a steady inflow of immigrants from Bangladesh or East Bengal to West Bengal increasing the fan base of East Bengal football club. There are supporters of both communities for each of the two teams. Bengali cuisine has not been unaffected by this rivalry either. An interesting thing to note is that the Mohun Bagan fanatics celebrate a win with prawns while the East Bengal fans pour over the exotic Hilsa fish.
The overall statistics show that in terms of numbers, East Bengal is ahead of its archrival but Mohun Bagan perhaps has the edge over when it comes to more impressive achievements. At present, they remain a prevailing force in Indian football with high profile Indian and overseas players, mainly from South America and Africa. It is unfortunate, that in spite of some corporate endorsements in the past decade and efforts to overhaul the state of Indian football, not much result is visible in terms of international performance. Viewed in this light, many supporters feel that a Mohun Bagan-East Bengal face-off holds more promise than any national game. In recent times, clubs from Goa have humbled the Bengal teams a number of times but it may be safely said, that whenever a third team is playing one of the rivals, it is sure to get all the support from the other.
At present both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are overburdened with administrative politics and its related trouble and this has been severely affecting the quality of the teams’ performance. Supporters can only hope that better days lie ahead when both the teams can concentrate on keeping the supremacy in Indian Football from slipping out of hand, or feet, as it is in this case.
Thanks for reading! Play fantasy sports and enjoy!