Social media battle adds spice ahead of Kolkata derby

Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have taken to social media to garner support, ahead of their much-anticipated derby clash on Sunday.

The head-to-head in the National Football League (the old name of I-League) and I-League combined has East Bengal leading with 15 wins in a total meeting of 40, while Mohun Bagan has won 12 while the remaining 13 have ended in a draw.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Brandon Vanlalremdika, Gurwinder Singh, Cavin Lobo and many of East Bengal’s outstation recruits are visible more on social media than they are on the field. East Bengal has barely started the I-League season, having played only two matches, but these players have been making repeated appeals to the people of their respective states – namely Mizoram, Punjab and Goa - staying in the city to come in big numbers and support East Bengal.

Traditional rival Mohun Bagan has also taken the digital route to spread the message across its millions of fans. The need to connect with the fans and expand the demography of its fan following is definitely propelled by the apprehension about an eroding support base. Such happenings set an interesting prelude to the season’s second Kolkata football derby as the two revive the continent’s oldest football contest, here at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday.

READ: The great Kolkata derby

Needless to say, the build-up created on the social media has scored well with Mohun Bagan, which has the right to organise the first tier of the double-leg league, claiming to have exhausted the tickets. Salt Lake Stadium, where the Derby returns after a break of almost two years, is likely to see a big turnout when the two giants of Indian football lock horns. The capacity of the stadium is now reduced to around 67,000 and anything over 90 per cent of the capacity will be considered a good attendance.

“The players will have to play in front of 66,000 tomorrow and I am sure it will be an interesting contest,” Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen said ahead of the match. Sen had guided Mohun Bagan to the I-League title in 2015 and the team finished as the runner-up last season.

The head-to-head in the National Football League (the old name of I-League) and I-League combined has East Bengal leading with 15 wins in a total meeting of 40. Mohun Bagan has won 12 while the remaining 13 have ended in a draw.

“We cannot take them lightly. We have to control things from the start till the end. It is very important to keep you composure and have a hold on both on the mental and physical aspects,” Khalid Jamil, the East Bengal coach, who guided Aizawl FC to the title last season.

East Bengal, which won the crown last in 2004, is banking heavily on Jamil’s managerial skills to regain the title. With the I-League set for dissolution in preference for the ISL anytime in future this is perhaps the last opportunity for East Bengal. With the two sides having played a 2-2 draw in their previous meeting (in September) in the clash for local supremacy in Calcutta Football League, both coaches pressed for ensuring a result this time.  

“We are leading (in the head-to-head count) but this match is different. If we score early goals then we have to sit on it. That will be our effort but it is always difficult to play against Sanjoy Sen,” said Jamil in his trademark manner showing respect to his opposition counterpart.

“I do not like to live in the past. I believe this will be a crucial game for both sides. This league is about points and I am sure they (East Bengal) too would not be looking to drop any,” said Sen,  setting the tone for an absorbing contest.

ALSO READ: The Kolkata Derby: They met as early as in 1921!

“We are ready to fight and let us hope we keep the momentum. Playing against East Bengal is different. We cannot be selfish on the field and have play as a team. The team handling the pressure better is the winner,” said the Mohun Bagan’s notable attacker, Sony Norde.

Apart from the Haitian Norde, Bagan also has Cameroonian Aser Dipanda Dicka in the attack. With the foreigner playing prominent part this time in absence of quality Indians, most of whom have been absorbed by the ISL, East Bengal is banking on the form and fitness of the likes of Trinidad and Tobago’s Willis Plaza and the Syrian attacking midfielder Mahmoud Al Amna.

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