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Friday, Dec 13, 2019

Row over Meghalaya guv ‘East Bengal Club’ tweet

The tweet drew flak from several quarters, especially supporters and office-bearers of East Bengal as well as former football players.

india Updated: Aug 01, 2019 01:28 IST
Tanmay Chatterjee and Dhiman Sarkar
Tanmay Chatterjee and Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Tathagata Roy
Tathagata Roy(HT Photo)

For football-loving Bengalis, few tweets would have been as outrageous as the one Meghalaya’s controversy-courting governor Tathagata Roy posted on Tuesday: why do people who live in West Bengal support Kolkata’s legendary East Bengal Football Club?

Coming days before the club’s centenary on Thursday, the tweet has kicked up a storm not only in Kolkata but across the state. East Bengal Football Club and its arch rival, Mohun Bagan Athletic Club, are an integral part of Bengal’s culture and history, and their rivalry may well be called the stuff of legend.

“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?” read Roy’s controversial post. Bangladesh was once called East Bengal.

The tweet drew flak from several quarters, especially supporters and office-bearers of East Bengal as well as former football players.

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

As reactions to Roy’s tweet swamped social media, he tweeted again: “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 should 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 three stints (1998-99, 2001-2004, 2007-2010), wondered if Roy understood how the mind of a football lover worked. “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 was never about where East Bengal was located... to me such a comment sounds foolish.”

Shyam Thapa, former striker who played both for East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in the 1970s and 1980s, said, “I can’t understand how someone can ever make a statement like that. It is for the love of football that I left home and became a resident of Kolkata forever.”