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Bengal govt to set up fish stalls to connect FIFA U-17 World Cup and Durga puja

The items have been tuned to fish traditionally associated with the football majors of Kolkata.

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Sep 22, 2017 13:07 IST
Hilsa is traditionally associated with Bengalis who are the original residents of Bangladesh, who constitute the traditional support base of East Bengal club.(HT Photo)

Trust Bengalis to celebrate anything with fish. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has decided to celebrate the double dhamaka of Durga puja and FIFA U-17 World Cup by setting up stalls selling fish delicacies themed around the three majors of Indian football East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting.

At least 20 stalls will be set up by the state fisheries department during the five days of the pujas.

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Football will be one of the hotly discussed topics in Kolkata during the puja days. The city will host 10 matches of the tournament including the final on October 28.

File picture of a delegation of the FIFA U-17 Football World Cup at D Y Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai. Kolkata will host the final of the tournament apart from nine other matches. (PTI)

The tournament begins on October 6 close on the heels of the Durga puja that will be held between September 26 and 30.

“Both Durga Puja and football trigger passions for Bengal and the chief minister wants a connection between the two during the days of the festival. The ambience of the stalls and the food items served will reflect soccer during the days of the festival,” fisheries minister Chandranath Singha told Hindustan Times.

Singha said that the East Bengal section will feature a number of hilsa delicacies such as mustard hilsa, smoked hilsa, hilsa in poppy seed, fried hilsa, pickled hilsa and hilsa egg curry. “These items will carry authentic flavour found in East Bengal (now Bangladesh),” said the minister.

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The Mohun Bagan section will have items such as prawn malai curry, prawn gravy, fried prawn, fried shrimp, pickled shrimp, shrimp with gourd and shrimp-kochu (taro) sag curry, among others. These items have been traditionally associated with West Bengal that is the support base of Mohun Bagan.

Prawns are associated with the supporters of Mohun Bagan club. (HT Photo)

To represent the Mohammedan Sporting camp, the government has chosen items such as hilsa biriyani, fish kebabs and fish tikia. “Some may question how Mughlai food will be served without meat. But we are the fisheries department and have resolved to serve lip-smacking items with our produce,” said Singha.

Till the eighties on the days when East Bengal and Mohun Bagan played in Kolkata, many neighbourhoods of the city would be ‘decorated’ by hilsa and prawns that would be hung from poles on the streets.

The marriage between fish and football in the run-up to the FIFA tournament has delighted the authorities of the major clubs.

“The commercial partners of the All India Football Federation may think club football in India can be successfully conducted without these three clubs. This initiative, however, is just another proof of how deep the connect with East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting is in India in general and Bengal in particular,” said Debabrata Sarkar, who is an executive committee member at East Bengal.

“When you are talking football in Bengal, there isn’t anything beyond these three clubs. The people of Bengal may have different political alignments but in matters football, they will be a supporter of one of these three. Period,” Debasish Dutta, Mohun Bagan’s finance secretary, told HT.

“When we were young, a match involving any two of the big Kolkata teams would mean excitement from the night before. We would have a picnic and put up posters of our heroes. Now, people may see matches of European teams but you just need to see any league game to see how much these clubs still mean to people. Since Durga Puja is when Bengal celebrates together, I think getting football and food together with it makes it just right,” said Mohammedan Sporting’s vice-president and player Dipendu Biswas.

First Published: Sep 14, 2017 09:45 IST