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HindustanTimes Thu,28 Aug 2014

Football

Fans stay away even as Mohun Bagan come home
HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Kolkata, January 24, 2013
First Published: 23:29 IST(24/1/2013)
Last Updated: 23:31 IST(24/1/2013)

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) mentioned Mohun Bagan's massive fan base as one of the reasons why it rescinded the long ban on the club.

But while in one part of the world, a ballboy contentiously held up the game to help his team, only some 4000 thought it worthwhile to buy tickets for the afternoon kickabout against United Sikkim at the 120,000-seater Salt Lake stadium. The estimate was provided by a Mohun Bagan official who requested anonymity.

This was Mohun Bagan's first game here since leaving the field against East Bengal and asked about the yawning terraces, coach Karim Bencherifa pondered before saying: "Only we can understand what it means to have zero points in the middle of the season. I hope we will get support. We need it badly but I think fans of Mohun Bagan only want good results. They will start turning up once we start winning."

The earliest that can happen is on Sunday away to United SC in Kalyani, some 60km from here.

The barren tie fetched Mohun Bagan their first point of I-League 6 - the AIFF has docked the 12 they earlier earned - but the bland manner in which it came made talk of victory seem as plausible as Kolkata being transformed into London.

Praising his team's spirit, United Sikkim coach Nathan Hall said this point was a bonus and that they need "around 24-25" to stay safe. After 17 rounds, they have 11.

Bencherifa's set the bar higher, saying Mohun Bagan now need nine wins from 14 rounds to avoid the chop. He also said this performance was an improvement on the 0-2 loss against Salgaocar.

Having engineered a turnaround in 2008-09 that saw Mohun Bagan win a record 10 successive I-League games, Bencher-ifa knows it is possible. And if Mohun Bagan return to winning ways, he is sure the fans will too.


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