Adios, Kolkata: Spanish members of Mohun Bagan, East Bengal homeward-bound

After remaining stuck for 40 days owing to the lockdown, the players and coaching staff from Spain finally bid adieu to Kolkata.

Namaste: Spanish players of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan gesture as they wait for a bus to reach Delhi, in Kolkata on Sunday.   -  Debasish Bhaduri

The Spanish players and coaching staff of city’s traditional rivals – Mohun Bagan and East Bengal – joined shoulders for once, to return to their native country.

After remaining stuck for 40 days owing to the COVID-19-pandemic-induced lockdown, the group finally said goodbye to the city, their home for a long football season. The journey was made possible after the Embassy of Spain confirmed an initiative from Madrid to organise a chartered flight for the people of the country stranded in India.

With the Indian government shutting passenger flights and railway till May 17 in the country, the Kolkata group had to agree to a long journey of around 1,500 kms Delhi by road on a specially arranged bus. The Spaniards had their first opportunity of returning to their native land late in March but that did not mature as the national federation – AIFF – was yet to announce the premature conclusion to the football season.

Fortunately, Mohun Bagan had managed to seal the crown with four rounds to beat the possibility of the I-League ending without a champion. The rest of the positions remained undecided as the I-League was declared closed with 23 matches still remaining. With quarantine, self-isolation and home containment becoming the norm as the raging pandemic forced everyone to scamper indoors, Mohun Bagan’s hopes of celebrating one of its most emphatic title wins went up in smoke.

The Spanish players and coaching staff of city’s traditional rivals – Mohun Bagan and East Bengal – joined shoulders for once, to return to their native country.   -  Debasish Bhaduri

 

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“We are happy because we are returning home but we are also sad that we have to leave the city without celebrating the special title that the team earned by putting in so much of effort,” coach Kibu Vicuna told a small gathering of Mohun Bagan club officials and some fans from the locality where the team’s foreigners were hosted by the club.

‘Hard to say goodbye’

“The day has come to say goodbye to the Mohun Bagan family. It is very hard to say goodbye to all those wonderful people, starting with the team-mates (family), going through all the staff (physios, coaches, etc.), officials and ending with the fans. Those fans who are called Mariners,” wrote one of the stars of Mohun Bagan’s triumph, Joseba Beitia on his Instagram page.

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“Next year I will start a new stage of my life but wherever I am, I will always be one more Mariner! Surely in the future we will cross again! Joy Mohun Bagan,” Beitia signed off in a manner that will give Mohun Bagan fans a lot to cheer for.

 

Some Mohun Bagan club officials, including the general secretary Srinjoy Bose and finance secretary Debasish Dutta, visited Vicuna and his colleagues on Saturday and gifted them sweets and packaged drinking water to say goodbye in the traditional way. The bus to Delhi took a total of 22 people including the players, coaching staff and their family both from camp Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, which had coach Mario Rivera and players like and Juan Mera and Jaime Santos among others joining the party.

The bus is scheduled to reach Delhi on Monday morning and will be making a few halts on the way. The travellers are advised against getting down from the bus and it was learnt that the bus will get a police escort in the final leg of its journey, once it crosses Uttar Pradesh border. The group is scheduled to fly out in a special flight on Tuesday morning that will take them to Amsterdam, from where they will disperse to respective destinations.

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