This was a Saturday evening show happening after 27 years. So, when Mohun Bagan said ‘let there be light’ again for a competitive match involving its senior team at home, there was a full house. As the sun went down and the hosts began a goal rush, spirits soared. Flashlights on mobile phones dotted the terraces and as some 15,000 participated in Mexican Waves, the ground throbbed.
The last time Mohun Bagan played under lights at home, phones were ungainly black objects that had dials and the lights at Eden Gardens were four years away from shining. That match, against Mohammedan Sporting, in April 1989 was for a local tournament which ended with allegations of match-fixing.
For some such as Abhijit Mitra, therefore, this was a first. “Back to the future,” said the new member. “I hope from now on, Mohun Bagan will play all their games, except the (Kolkata) derby (against East Bengal) at the club. Today will always be a special day in my life as I have recently become the member of the club and this was the first match that I witnessed with my own Mohun Bagan card.”
Caring a fig for the fact that he was wearing a Mohun Bagan shirt that had the old sponsor’s name, Shiladitya Mitra, another member, said: ”Happy days are here again. It is definitely a great feeling to watch Mohun Bagan playing on their own ground, that too under the lights.”
There were others who had experienced the novelty that football after dark was when the light towers were installed in 1977. SP Chatterjee, 62, remembered coming with his father. And he was present on Saturday to watch 5-1 win against Aryan in the Kolkata league. “The lights then were more yellow and less bright but the ground then was better,” said Chatterjee.
With work on refurbishing the galleries taking a long time to finish , the last time Mohun Bagan played at home was in December 2011.
The four towers at Mohun Bagan do not have the luminosity of the lights at Eden, Salt Lake stadium or even the Barasat stadium on the city’s eastern fringes. But getting them back and working the state government has made the 127-year-old club the only one in India where you can play after sunset. Last year at the club’s annual day celebrated on July 29, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had promised to get the lights at Mohun Bagan working.
Having begun for his new club with a hattrick in the 5-1 win against Aryan in their Kolkata league opener, Scottish striker Darryl Duffy, 32, said: “I had no problems with the light. The atmosphere was great. This is what you play for.”