The Salt Lake Stadium and the one Manchester City call home were united and separated by a bizarre tale of two football derbies on Sunday. Both had a player bleeding from a missile thrown from the stands but while the one in England didn't stop for a minute, the one in Kolkata never resumed after
the first half.
With almost 100,000 people watching, Asia's oldest club, Mohun Bagan, cited security concerns, preferring the possibility of a three-season ban from the I-League, India's biggest football competition, to playing the second half against East Bengal.
"Had we resumed, who would have guaranteed that there wouldn't have been a repeat of August 16," asked Anjan Mitra, the Mohun Bagan general secretary. He was referring to a match between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal in 1980 when 16 people died at the Eden Gardens. "And the security of the away team, its players, officials and fans rest with the home team," said Mitra. This was East Bengal's home match. A red card on Mohun Bagan skipper Okolie Odafa for intimidating referee Vishnu Chauhan in first half stoppage time turned the carnival into a cauldron of chaos. Missiles rained from the lower tier of the Mohun Bagan section of the stands. They were possibly intended for the referee but hit Mohun Bagan's Syed Rahim Nabi in the face.
"That Mohun Bagan resumed playing showed that they thought the law and order situation was under control. Personally, I thought so too. It was unfortunate that Nabi got injured but I thought the police arrangements were adequate and they took whatever action needed to bring the situation under control," said Sunando Dhar, the I-League CEO, who was present along with India coach Wim Koevermans of the Netherlands.
Mohun Bagan hope AIFF won't be that drastic and have promised to appeal to upper authorities, said Mitra. He didn't specify but it could mean Fifa or the AFC.