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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019

‘Why support East Bengal sitting in West Bengal’: Meghalaya governor’s remark sparks row

Tathagata Roy’s tweetraised a storm in Kolkata and rest of Bengal since East Bengal and its arch rival, Mohun Bagan Athletic Club, comprise an integral part of the state’s culture and history.

india Updated: Jul 31, 2019 16:10 IST
Tanmay Chatterjee and Dhiman Sarkar
Tanmay Chatterjee and Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Kolkata: Supporters take part in a rally ahead 100 years celebration of East Bengal Football Club, in Kolkata on July 28, 2019.
Kolkata: Supporters take part in a rally ahead 100 years celebration of East Bengal Football Club, in Kolkata on July 28, 2019. (PTI)
         

Meghalaya governor Tathagata Roy’s tweet asking whether people who live in West Bengal can be supporters of Kolkata’s famous East Bengal Football Club, which is celebrating its centenary year, has created a controversy.

“East Bengal Athletic Club (basically soccer) is celebrating its centenary. Has it struck its office-bearers or any of its supporters why they are supporting East Bengal while sitting in West Bengal?” Roy said on his official Twitter handle.

The tweet raised a storm in Kolkata and rest of Bengal since East Bengal and its arch rival, Mohun Bagan Athletic Club, comprise an integral part of the state’s culture and history. Roy faced criticism from many quarters, especially from supporters and office-bearers of East Bengal which turns 100 on Thursday.

“East Bengal was founded in 1920, decades before the birth of Bangladesh which was earlier known as East Bengal. Roy doesn’t know the history and should refrain from making such remarks,” said Shantiranjan Dasgupta, assistant secretary of East Bengal FC.

After the reactions on social media, Roy posted another tweet saying, “Abuses pouring in, basically due to lack of understanding. Many of us have forgotten our East Bengali roots, but support the club of that name. The fact that I support East Bengal while sitting in West Bengal shd constantly remind me that we were driven out because of our religion.”

Roy describes himself as a “right-wing Hindu socio-political thinker, writer, ideologue” on his Twitter handle.

Dipendu Biswas, former India striker who played for East Bengal in 1998-99; 2001 to 2004; 2007 to 2010, said, “The gentleman who said this may be way more qualified academically than many but I am not sure he has a clear understanding of how the mind of a football supporter works. East Bengal is an identity, it is beyond geography. When I was young and playing football for fun, East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting were institutions you dreamt of representing.”

“It is still that way for many young boys in Bengal and beyond. I would ask my mother to buy me shirts of these clubs and she would. It was never about where East Bengal was located. It was about wanting to be part of an elite football institution,” said Biswas.

Shyam Thapa, soccer star from yesteryears, said, “I cannot understand how someone can ever make a statement like that. It is for the love for football that I left home and became a resident of Kolkata forever.”

This is not the first time Roy has kicked off a row with his remarks. In the past, he has invited criticism for comments on an array of issues on social media.