Kolkata – India’s Mecca for a reason

Rahul Sadhu
A massive 80x60 feet tifo showcased unity among Mohammedan Sporting, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal fans. (Twitter/abhimanyu)

As India and Bangladesh locked horns on the football pitch, 61,486 plus fans inside the Salt Lake Stadium made it a spectacle worth remembering in India’s most football-loving city.

One of the several tifos inside the Salt Lake stadium during the match. (Twitter)

Two of the biggest football clubs in Kolkata, whose fans share an intense rivalry among themselves, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, along with old foe Mohammedan Sporting, joined hands to make the World Cup qualifier a huge success in Kolkata on Tuesday.

The derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan has the uncanny ability to turn friends into foes and families against each other. Even the cuisines of the day tend to personify the rivalry.

But when the Blue Tigers took to the pitch in Kolkata for the first time in eight years, club rivalry took a backseat.

Rival fans joined hands to support the Indian national football team. (Twitter/EBRPFC)

As part of the preparation, a massive 80x60 feet tifo was conceptualised by the Blue Pilgrims, the Indian national football team supporters group along with fan groups of East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting.

"The idea behind it is that the three aforementioned clubs share an intense rivalry. Things often tend to get heated up but with this depiction, it shows how the three came together to support the national team. After the match, we got a lot of praise and Kolkata showed why it is the mecca of football," said Varun from the Blue Pilgrims.

A lot of hard work was put into its making for more than two weeks with the end product weighing more than 70 kgs.

Preparations for the World Cup qualifier.

Next to the tifo was the mosaic which was set in the morning on the day of the match. 6000 scarves were used to design the seats, 2000 for each colour (orange, white and green).

But was it easy to get planning something of this magnitude. "It was a challenge but that is the ethos of Blue Pilgrims to bring everyone together for the Indian football team"

Apart from the tifo, rival fans worked together to keep the crowd at the Yuva Bharati Krirangan on their feet, making India versus Bangladesh clash a successful event.

Despite the fans putting in extra efforts, the management were a step behind as the supporters had to face trouble when they tried to enter the stadium hours before kickoff. The security in front of Gate No 1 and 3 manned by the Kolkata police were not allowing banners to be taken inside the stadium. Despite permission granted by AIFF authorities, some of the posters had to be left out with the police citing security concerns.

There is nothing quite like being a football supporter. The willingness to put up with the discomfort in almost every aspect surrounding the emotion is remarkable in itself. But for a dedicated football fan everything is secondary to being at the game.