Saturday, August 8, 2009

How I turned a Mohan Bagun fan

Having been brought up in soccer- starved Chennai, I knew nothing of football when I landed in soccer-mad Calcutta (now Kolkata) in a Nor’ester month on official transfer in early Seventies. Within a month I knew that football was a passion with Bengalis and no conversation is complete amongst my Bengali friends without debating the relative merits of Mohan bagan, BNR, East Bengal or Mohamedan Sporting club often ending in abuse and rarely in blows. I was all at sea not knowing the names of leading players or the rules of the game. Being a greenhorn, I had no fancy for any particular club. I remained discreetly silent with an air of all-knowing indifference. The city was divided not on the basis of religion or political affiliations as we witness elsewhere. You have to be pro- one of these clubs and naturally anti - others. It was an exclusive choice not permitting your taking kindly to more than one club at a time, only black and white with no shades of grey. I believe these days the craze is much less, but then in Seventies, it was amazing and at times horrific. I knew a person, who would starve for days if his East Bengal lost. If they won, entire neighbourhood would be feasted with Hilsa fish. I didn’t know then that East Bengal was associated with Hilsa and Mohan Bagun with prawns. Depending on which club won, particular variety will vanish from market. Such polarisation of people on the basis of loyalty to the clubs is to be seen to be believed...Nevertheless it is the love for football that binds the city without regard to status, age, gender, language or religion however much it is divided on the playing days.
It was then on a hot Sunday afternoon while I was returning home from an errand I saw a middle aged guy in a gaudy yellow shirt and Dhoti with a jholna bag hanging on the side with unkempt hair walking on the other side of the road close to my house talking to himself with gesticulations. I took him for a mad cap and when I saw him moving towards me I gave him a wide berth by moving hurriedly to the opposite platform. I was a bit scared and profusely sweating when I rang the bell of my apartment nearby.
.When my young daughter opened the door, I mentioned about this amusing but scary man.
No sooner I started telling her, she stopped me and asked ”Was he wearing a yellow shirt with a bag on his shoulder and talking to himself”
I said “Yes, how do you know?”
“Appa, he is a Mohun Bagan pagal, he will invariably ask you “Do you like Mohan Bagun or East Bengal? If you say per chance East Bengal, you are finished as he will immediately give you a hard slap”
“My God,” I muttered thinking how close he came to me and how deftly I avoided him.
She continued saying “He was a leading player in his days in Mohan Bagun and lost his moorings when he broke his leg and had to discontinue playing. Poor chap, he is otherwise a harmless fellow”
It was at that moment I chose Mohun Bagan as my favourite club and started walking bravely on the same side of the platform with my yellow shirt friend. However he never asked me to my disappointment the eagerly awaited question. But I did not switch my loyalties as there were no pagals in the vicinity swearing by East Bengal or Mohamedan Sporting clubs.


  1. i would also like to follow Indian football but they hardly telecast it, Nice story nonetheless, is it real. MY favorite club is Arsenal from EPL.

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  3. LoL...

    Interesting write up ..i feel strange at the way they go biased and divided in groups..!

    It all came as a big surprise to me..:)

    Thanks for sharing this sir..

    PS: I would be really grateful ,if you could let me know your views and comments on my blog..Thank you sir..They mean a lot to me sir..i was really missing your views on my past 4 posts.

  4. You have brought out the sentimenst so well, I am very much aware and also a part of this euphoria called Bengali football, as a thumb rule the eastbengal fans are mostly the bengalis who have come to kolkatta from bangladesh after partition and the mohun bagan fans are the native calcuttans, nence the choices of fish..I have see many a battles in my childhood because half my family is from the other side of the border

  5. wow amazing post.. When I read the title, I was sure i was gonna be somethign like how Mohun Bagan changed ur life n stuff (me being a footy fanatic *sigh*).. he he could never have predicted u became a fan this way... thanks for the laughs:)

  6. This one is very different from your usual story lines. A nice change.

  7. Very Interesting & Beautiful Post :D

  8. Congrats sir! Happy to know you got an interview request....Great! like to read it soon :-)

    And the post was interesting...something different from you! Really nice.

    Have a pleasant time!

  9. Man, what a craze!!!
    Sports do bring out the extreme in people, but this topped all!!