Mohun Bagan will seek to reclaim local supremacy when it meets traditional rival East Bengal in the deciding tie of the Calcutta Football League’s premier division-A match on Sunday.
The season’s first Kolkata derby will be hosted by the Kanchenjungha Stadium here as the Salt Lake Stadium has been kept aside for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, scheduled to get under way on October 8.
East Bengal has been champion for a record seven seasons on the trot in the 119-year-old tournament. Mohun Bagan last won the title in 2009. This happened primarily because Mohun Bagan was trying to tide over financial troubles after the departure of its sponsor, the UB Group. Working on a curtailed contract system, it got into the team building process seriously before the start of the I-League, which it won in 2015.
Enabled by better cash flow this season, Mohun Bagan reverted to picking up the strongest possible side, which saw the arrival of quality foreigners like the forwards Anusmana Kromah (Liberia) and Stephane Bayi Kamo (Ivory Coast), and the Nigerian defender Kingsley Eze.
East Bengal, meanwhile, imported coach Khalid Jamil, who guided Aizawl FC — and the North-East — its first I-League title last season, essentially targeting the national league crown which has eluded it in the last 13 years.
On Jamil’s advice, East Bengal picked up a string of foreigners like the Syrian midfielder Mahmoud Al Amna, and the Trinidad and Tobago duo of Willis Plaza (striker) and Carlyle Mitchell (central defender).
Apart from the foreign components, both the sides have a good number of quality Indian names.
Both teams are on 22 points from eight outings each ahead of the last encounter. But East Bengal, with a superior goal-difference, is on top of the standings, making it imperative for Mohun Bagan to win.
The last time the league saw a similar situation was in 2013, when East Bengal won the match 3-2. But what Mohun Bagan coach Shankarlal Chakraborty will draw hope from is the fact that the result of last ‘derby’ at the same venue — in the I-League in April — was 2-1 in its favour.