YOU CAN'T REALLY not have East Bengal and Mohun Bagan taking digs at each other. Even when they're not currently engaged in an on-field battle, fans and officials of both these clubs constantly try to one-up each other over anything and everything. It makes for great banter, and keeps the rivalry alive throughout the year.
The latest example of this comes over the issue of East Bengal not showing up for their CFL match against Calcutta Customs at Kalyani yesterday.
The match was originally scheduled for 29th September at the East Bengal Ground but had to be postponed due to heavy rains causing waterlogging near the edges of the pitch. East Bengal were in favour of the match being re-played after 20th October, but the IFA scheduled the match for Thursday since Calcutta Customs had run out of player contracts and would incur heavy expenses if the match was delayed. They also did this to resolve the CFL title race that was hanging on this game - if East Bengal beat Customs by 7 goals they'd be the champions, otherwise the title would go to Peerless SC.
But East Bengal did not agree, with their head coach already announcing a holiday for players to have them rest up ahead of the I-League season. According to multiple reports, on Tuesday evening officials of Quess, the majority stakeholders in East Bengal, had a discussion with head coach Alejandro Menendez and decided not to play. However, on matchday morning, rumours became rife that the club was going to send a squad with 7 first team players and reserves to Kalyani to play the match. But at the time of kick-off, the Customs team and the referees went out to the pitch and waited; and the Red and Golds were nowhere to be seen.
The IFA will meet on 10th October and the way things are, they are likely to declare this as a walkover win for Customs; which would mean Peerless SC would officially become champions.
However, East Bengal issued a statement late in the evening, defending their decision not to play the match citing poor communication by the IFA. They demanded that the match should be rescheduled for or after 21st October.
But taking a dig at their rivals' stance were Mohun Bagan, who clearly believe that the IFA should not reschedule this match again, and award a walkover win to Calcutta Customs. They made that point clear by choosing to recognize Peerless SC as the champions of CFL 2019, even though it's not yet official.
Mohun Bagan General Secretary Swapan Sadhan Bose sent a letter to the Peerless SC secretary, congratulating him, head coach Jahar Das and the club for winning the league.
As East Bengal officials try to increase pressure on the state governing body to schedule the match again instead of declaring this to be a walkover, Mohun Bagan have made it clear that they might counter-lobby against that, asking IFA not to show East Bengal such special consideration.
There are numerous examples of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan trying their best to make things difficult for each other, especially when one or both are in the race to win a major trophy. In 1958, East Bengal gave a walkover to Eastern Railway just to make sure Mohun Bagan did not win the CFL. That was the last time any club other than the big 3 (East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting) won the league.
Now, six decades later, what Mohun Bagan are doing to counteract East Bengal's actions to keep their title hopes alive can be seen as a bit of a payback.