It’s ten years now, but feels like yesterday. Since a week before the match, the vernacular dailies had no news in their pages except some kind of pre-match analysis of the game. There were full-page cartoons of the captains of the both sides. “Clash of the Titans” under this headline the two captains were facing each other with hatred in their eyes. With square jaws (Mohan Bagan’s was squarer) and red eyes (you know whose was redder), two captains were staring each other. The cartoons soon became the topic of the evening debate. We successfully identified 37 weak points of the East Bengal captain. His eyes were reflecting a hint of fear, his biceps were not as fully developed as ours, and he was a tad thinner and oh gosh!!! The horns on the Viking helmet that he was wearing … they were almost blunt and bent facing each other. Whereas, our captain’s helmet was like … ‘come here and leave your eyes’ types.
I cannot list all the thirty sevens here but enthusiasts can email me.
Yes, you guessed it right. There were a round of cracker bursting. The air turned mild yellow across Bengal.
We were excited because we had a new coach for the team. The great coach, who went to watch the soccer world cup in the United States, painstakingly researched the real reasons for the better performance and invented a new technique.
A keen observer that he is, he found out the winner, Brazil team’s goalkeeper, always keeps a water bottle (a lucky charm) just behind the left bar of the goal post. He discovered the goalkeeper always touches his forehead on the left bar first and then runs to the right bar, touches it and then jumps to touch the cross bar.
He also discovered that the lead Brazilian striker has gold in his teeth and the main defender always pulls his pant before hitting the field. Before every corner kick, the player (whoever he is) scratches his head. And oh yes, most of them have short hairs to cut through the air. Those who were finicky about the aero dynamics were entirely bald.
The entire match he was busy noting down the real reasons of the successful Brazilian team and came back to India with a world-conqueror smile.
He was also convinced that in a game like football, speed is the keyword. Skill comes second. Speed is everything.
He was quick in implementing his findings. All the players of our team parted ways with their fancy hair. Our goalkeeper learnt the art of saluting the goal posts. Our lead corner taker, who only parallels Beckham, soon started scratching his head and so on. The striker’s teeth were covered with gold.
Oh yes, our coach did not forget to bring a Brazilian water bottle with him which duly graced the left bar.
He also invented a new tactics. Indian football is Indian football because players don’t run much. These lazy players are content with kicking the ball whenever it comes near their feet. Kicking is their work but where it lands is not the their concern. But the inherent mechanism is such that the ball always will land up to the right person. Say, for example you passed (or miss-passed as you western snobs might think) the ball to the opponent team, the player concerned again will pass it to his opponent. It’s a nice show of brotherhood and game spirit. India never attacked anybody in its 3000 years of history. Footballers know that very well. They don’t attack each other even in the finals. They also feel ashamed if they accidentally score a goal. So most of our matches are goal less or decided over the penalty. In matches with foreign countries they are ready to absorb the shocks. They get to eat all the goals, they give none … narrow minded fellows.
But this time it was different. Our aggressive coach was hell-bent that he would uproot this practice of a peaceful coexistence and will turn the peace-loving grass grazers into fierce warriors. His tactics was simple. When the ball is with you, the whole team start attacking. The whole team, if need be the goalkeeper, should come up to the opponent’s box. And when the ball comes to our box, the whole team should spring into action to defend the motherland. He called it the Indian blitzkrieg. Thanks to him, many got to know about the famous Hitler tactics. We didn’t mind when our East Bengal rivals were also illuminated. After all, they always need illumination. We were quite happy to educate them, as we have always been in the lead role of educating our countrymen.
Our coach also learnt that pre-match war of words is as important as in-match skills. So he was quick in calling the opponent’s feared (as they claim) striker Omoleja as omelette. Their captain Baichung, who was hailed by the EB fans as the scorpion of the hill, as the ‘earthworm of the hill”. He called for the Nigerian ‘Cheema’ to have a ‘jeevan beema’ or life insurance.
So, the stage was set. And the crackers were getting costlier with the passing time. They were in short supply and you have to wait in queues to grab a box of chocolate bomb. The earth was getting threatened to get covered with green-maroon flags. Wherever there was a shortage of maroon, we were quick in painting the entire nearby clothes available after our team’s jersey colour.
Such was the hatred for the opponent’s orange-yellow jersey that kids refused to have orange or lemon icecreams. They just demanded that their icecreams be coloured either maroon or green or both. So the now famous ‘MohanBagan Icecream’ was conceptualised.
Eden Garden! The great stadium with a seating capacity of 1 lakh 30 thousand was over-pouring with supporters of the both teams. All the Mohan Bagan fans came in flocks to abuse the East Bengal fans that also came in equal numbers to get tormented and humiliated by us.
And the clash of the titans began!!!!!
Just as the referee blew his whistle, the ball was on to our side. Eleven players charged like a tsunami. There was absolute panic in the East Bengal box. Red-yellow jerseys were scattering here and there not understanding what to do.
Back in the gallery at the Mohan Bagan stand, the environment was electrifying. We were shouting beyond our capacity. We were teasing the poor East Bengal fans, who were dumbstruck by the sheer velocity of the attack, with friendly abuses which they deciphered as dirty slangs. Half of the people in our box were half naked as we pulled out our jersey and were rotating it above our head. Mexican waves rolled half of the stadium at out side. The world has never seen such aggressive attack in a football match ever.
But then, as one of our players, forgetting the aggressiveness that his great coach has taught, passed on the ball to a player of the opponent team as a sign of old camaraderie. And that bugger, without even considering returning the favour, going against the curtsy, hit the ball towards our empty goal post. The goalkeeper who was also assisting the attack ran like an arrow to defend his turf.
The East Bengal fans started hollering like a pack of dogs.
But then they did not see our full plan. At the same electric speed that our team attacked, they again came down to defend their box and the day was saved. The ball was again at the opponent’s box.
We again started hurling friendly abuses to the other team’s fans, sitting at an aisle apart, separated by a fence.
Again the opponent was baffled. But our team could not take advantage of the situation or may be they could not forget they are gentlemen. None of their shot came near the goal post, but ended up on the defender’s feet who was prompt in kicking it towards our box. With no art, no game spirit, just like a robot, he was taking the ball from our skilful strikers and passing it on to his hungry striker waiting at our box. Only because of that striker has a fluke luck of scoring goals somehow, our great goalkeeper could not leave his goal post to assist his lightening fast comrades. Bastard!
The wave of attacks and quickly regrouping happened for some more time.
Our group went up, came down, went up again, came down again, went up like a storm, came down like a wave, attacked again like Roman centurions… but could not come down this time.
They were tired. Out of breath. Panting like dogs. Just within the first ten minutes of the game.
And they never recovered.
Game and war have ethics. You are not a great warrior if you violate the ethics and win the war. East Bengal did precisely that. Taking advantage of our tired team, they just walked and scored their first goal. Nobody gave them a fight when they scored the second.
There was a pal of gloom among us. I was not in a position to speak. I had ruptured my vocal chord shouting for my team. Many were experiencing the same, for we were communicating in gestures. Our opponents, louts as they are, were creating sound pollution without even noticing that there might be some old people with heart ailment who could pop it if they continue to shout like this.
These uneducated lots were hurling dirty slangs at us. The same words that we uttered in a great game spirit, they were uttering those words with a tone that clearly was insulting.
We didn’t expect this from them when clearly both were Bengalis. But then, they have a different history. It is clear if Mohan Bagan plays against Brazil or any other country they will support Brazil or that country only because they are anti-Mohan. Traitors!
But we were not there to flout rules. With due respect to the spirit of the game, dumb, we were watching the match. Some were walking towards the gate even when the match was only fifteen minutes. All our body builders and our pride left us and the stadium.
But then the opportunity came again.
We always knew they have the worst kind of defence. They scored a self-goal out of utter complacency. The goalkeeper was playing with the ball when it slipped from his hand and hit the net.
That was a moral booster. We started shouting again. The words that they were using for us were duly returned with extra cheese smacked on them.
Our team also recovered a bit, or so we sensed. We started forecasting doom for the East Bengal team. Perhaps they also sensed so.
Only to stop us, expert fence climbers as they always are, they adopted the same technique as our tem and came at an electric speed. Climbed our fence, beat us and again at the same manner went on to their gallery. Before we could react, the police came in between. We always knew the police are on their side. We always have seen that.
With bleeding nose and injured pride we started singing for our team. But those bastards were again panting like dogs. Before long the omelette and the earthworm of the hill had score hatricks each.
May be these barbarians, remembering the game spirit, stopped scoring goals and instead started playing with our players. Passing ball through their shaking legs and hitting them with the ball to claim a throw and again to pass it through their shaking legs. It was devastation.
We came home battered and bruised. Our team had let us down. The saddest day of our lives.
And then it started. Yes, these East Bengal fans started bursting their crackers.
Now we knew why the crackers were so costly to get. Bloody hoarders!
Remember, what our first Prime Minister Nehru had to say about hoarders? They should be hanged from the first lamppost. Alas, since we lack leaders like him today, not a single East Bengal fan was hanged.
They went on bursting the crackers. Without giving a damn about the old people, patients in the hospital or school children preparing for the exams.
Their bloody noisy celebration went on for days … weeks. They didn’t stop until the air turned red-yellow, the colour of their jersey.
So now you know what is the real reason for the global warming. Since winter comes before summer, we take full responsibility for the chilling winter weather in England, but we won’t and don’t take responsibility for the Somalian drought. Period.