THE FIRST KOLKATA DERBY OF I-League 2019-20 season has been postponed due to lack of availability of sufficient police personnel.
With Christmas approaching and parts of the state, including Kolkata, witnessing a surge of protests in recent days, the Bidhan Nagar Police, which provides security at the Salt Lake Stadium, felt that if the Kolkata Derby was played with the full approved capacity of the stadium (roughly 66,000) being used, there wouldn't be adequate security measures in place to keep the highly hostile crowd in control.
As a result, the Deputy Commissioner of the Bidhan Nagar Police wrote a letter to Mohun Bagan, who are the home team for the first Derby, to restrict the ticket sales for the highly anticipated clash of rivals.
A similar request has been made to ISL for the ATK vs Bengaluru FC match that will be held on 25th December.
However, the Mohun Bagan officials decided that holding the Derby in front of myriads of empty seats would be a waste of the occasion, and rob them of a chance to make significant profit from the ticket sales for the biggest match in Indian football.
The club officials sent a letter to the I-League Committee explaining the situation, following which a decision was made to postpone the match to January.
The Derby, as of now, is expected to take place after 19th January; although a concrete date has not yet been decided.
In a statement, Mohun Bagan announced that tickets already purchased online for the Derby will remain valid for the rescheduled date of the game.
The decision received mixed reviews from the fans. Many Mohun Bagan fans are okay with the match being rescheduled as it would allow for a full-scale audience to be present at the venue. A lot of East Bengal fans, however, accused the Mariners of manipulating the match schedule to ensure the match takes place after the winter transfer window opens up; which would allow Mohun Bagan to field their new signings including the high profile striker Baba Diawara; whose services they would be unable to avail if the game took place on the 22nd December as per the original fixtures.
Presently, both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are very much in the title race, occupying the top two spots on the points table, separated by just one point. The Kolkata Derby has often played a major role in the I-League title race; expectations it would do so again this season, and the fact that East Bengal are celebrating their historic 100th year since inception, have further built up the anticipation around this high profile and historic match-up.