The Kolkata derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan has had a storied past of intense rivalry and heated on and off-field action.
The football pitch, be it the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Salt Lake or the greens of the Kolkata maidan, has been the storied battlefield for the sections of ‘green-marron’ and the ‘red-gold’.
On Sunday, the other Maidan giant, Mohammedan Sporting Club’s ground, turned into a literal battlefield during the Kolkata Hockey League encounter between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan.
Reportedly the trouble started when Mohun Bagan supporters targeted the East Bengal officials, with taunts and unsavoury insults launched from galleries. The East Bengal fans did not sit idle and responded with their own abuses.
According to reports, the MB fans asked for refunds from East Bengal official Debbrata Sarkar for a cancelled I-League involving the two teams back in March of 2020, due to the onset of Covid-19. The fans alleged that tickets sold for the game were not reimbursed as promised by the EB officials.
Both the teams since have moved to the Indian Super League. After playing behind closed doors in faraway Goa for two seasons, fans got to witness the derby in October of last year, when ATK Mohun Bagan beat East Bengal FC 2-0. Owing to the size of the Salt Lake Stadium, interactions between fans and officials were difficult on that night.
As for the game, Nitish Neupane, who had moved from East Bengal to Mohun Bagan this season, scored to hand the lead to his new employers by the 12th-minute mark. Incidentally, Mohun Bagan has fielded a hockey team for the first time in 22 years and was their first hockey derby against East Bengal since 1999.
East Bengal officials threw chair when Mohun Bagan supporters asked them to refund money they took for the last iLeague game. pic.twitter.com/YGrwd6iuUG— Mohun Bagan (@mohunbaganclub) February 19, 2023
When stones started raining down on the field, the East Bengal officials threw their chairs at the Mohun Bagan gallery.
Mohun Bagan secretary Debashis Dutta entered the ground demanding the game to be stopped as both sets of officials came to blows on the field.
Police on horseback had to intervene to bring some semblance of order.
After lengthy discussions, the galleries were ordered to be empty for the match to resume. The game could not continue however as the afternoon sun had waned and with light fading the derby was called off.
In the aftermath, there was confusion again as reports suggested that Hockey Bengal, the organisers, did not get permission from the police to have supporters in the stands.
“I informed Maidan police station and Lalbazar. Even after that, I can’t say why there was no adequate police arrangement," Hockey Bengal president Swapan Banerjee was quoted as saying by a Bengali news outlet.
Akash Magharia, DCP South, Kolkata Police, said the security provided was adequate and the section of the gallery where the Mohun Bagan supporters were, was meant to be empty.
Incidentally, the teams are slated to face off again on the football field for their last league phase game of the ISL on 25 February.
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