Unbounded joy of a Mohun Bagan triumph

Mohun Bagan Fans roaring and with tifos
Mohun Bagan Fans roaring and with tifos (PC: Swapnil Mukherjee)

Outside the Salt Lake Stadium, Mohun Bagan flags were sold at Rs 70 each. A bit of haggling and the price came down to Rs 50. Head bands were Rs 20 each and face-paint artists were ubiquitous.

The mercury touched 39 degrees Celsius in Kolkata on Monday. And although it was an evening game, the humidity was unbearable. Die-hard Mohun Bagan supporters didn’t mind. They thronged the stadium to be part of history.

Inside the stadium, there were tifos. The fans beat drums and burst crackers. And as Antonio Lopez Habas emerged from the tunnel, they greeted him with a loud roar. Habas had missed the last three games due to illness. On the big day, he couldn’t stay back. The Bagan head coach thumped his chest.

The tension was palpable. Bagan fans were aware of their club’s poor record against Mumbai City FC. They also knew that a draw would be enough for the visitors to clinch the ISL League Winners Shield, while the hosts had to win.

The game started. On two minutes, Manvir Singh made a run, cut inside the Mumbai City penalty area but failed to deliver a cross. The fans got excited. Then, on 20 minutes, Anirudh Thapa sent a floater and Liston Colaco met it with a diving header. The ball rebounded off the woodwork.

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Mohun Bagan Fans with Tifos
Mohun Bagan Fans with Tifos (PC: Swapnil Mukherjee)

Post a ball laglo, goal hobe toh (the ball hit the post, will we be able to score a goal now),” said a man in his fifties, obviously a little superstitious. His friends told him not to worry. And indeed on 28 minutes, Liston scored a lovely goal for Bagan, off a Dimitri Petratos assist. The noise blew the roof off. “Mohun Bagan, Mohun Bagan” chants gave goosebumps.

After the break, Mumbai City upped the ante and surged through a couple of times. “Subhasish (Bose) khali final tackle a chole jacche aar beat hocche (Subhasish is going into the final tackle early and getting beaten),” said a young fan, advising the Bagan captain to stay calm.

Habas rung the changes. Jason Cummings was introduced. The coach also tweaked to change the formation to a back-five. Cummings took time to get into the groove. “Cummings ta jholacche (Cummings is not up to the mark),” a fan let out his frustration. Soon after, the forward scored Bagan’s second goal and the groans turned into massive cheers.

Mumbai City pulled one back in added-on time. The home supporters waited with bated breath, and prayers on their lips. Finally, the referee blew the final whistle and for the first time, Bagan had won the ISL Shield. A turnout of 61,000 danced in the aisles.

As the players did a lap of honour, a man in his seventies wrapped himself in a club flag and wept. “I have seen Chuni Goswami play,” said the senior citizen, taking time to get his composure back before heading out. “I have seen the game against Pele’s Cosmos. And I’m telling you, this win is special. It will take us to the AFC Champions League.”

Also Read: ISL Shield won, Subhasish looks at big picture: ‘Golden year for Bengal football’