Rarely do football fans lay siege on their club to demand an apology for a numbing loss to a smalltime Maidan club. But rarer is the stance taken by the club that the supporters were within their right to give players the treatment.
Tuesday was one of those rare days in Kolkata football when fans held East Bengal to ransom after they slumped to a 1-4 loss to Aryan with whom they share their club ground. It was just that five to six hundred disgruntled fans at the East Bengal ground, most of them members, said they wouldn't allow the team to leave the pitch until the players apologised for their ‘unpardonable performance’, three days after a 0-2 defeat to archrivals Mohun Bagan. The standoff lasted almost 25 minutes till police were forced to clear the galleries but not before shoes, water bottles and spit rained on the team.
The club management though felt this was the message players needed to be sent. East Bengal football secretary Santosh Bhattacharya said he was happy players had to face the music. “This type of incidents used to happen in the 70s and 80s but never in recent times have I experienced such an outburst from fans. I think it will deliver the right message to the players and will inspire them to play better,” said Bhattacharya.
Not only that, in an attempt to appease fans, four top players of the team held a press conference on Wednesday where they assured fans of better results. Tuesday’s events called for more security to be provided to players but former stars swear this is how it’s meant to be. “During our time, we had to ask the police to take us in their jeeps to a safe location from where we could take a taxi home,” said Bhaskar Ganguly, who was Mohun Bagan’s goalkeeper when East Bengal thrashed them 5-0 in the 1975 IFA Shield Final. It’s rumoured that some of the Mohun Bagan players were forced to spend the night in boats on the nearby Hooghly river.