A COLLECTIVE FORUM OF Mohun Bagan supporters and members held a press conference at the Press Club on Thursday, asking their management to 'Remove ATK or Break The Merger.'
The event was organized by a number of Mohun Bagan fan groups who after a long period of registering online and offline protests regarding their new investor KGSPL's portrayal of the Mariners' football team, which is playing with the brand name ATK Mohun Bagan FC, as a "new merged club."
Throughout the evening, a number of Mohun Bagan fans gathered outside the venue and continued to chant and sing songs about their 'Remove ATK or Demerge' initiative.
One of the supporters who spoke to the media at the press conference explained the reason behind their demands,
"When the merger was announced Sanjiv Goenka had said that there is no place for ego but there is space for legacy and emotions. We believed him. Our Mohun Bagan club officials, Debashish Dutta and Srinjoy Bose, they had showed us some colourful dreams and we believed them too. The start was good, the jersey colour was green and maroon. The logo was our sailing boat. So we had accepted it. But since then the trouble began. It became apparent that Mohun Bagan's heritage and legacy are not being carried forward by this entity. They want to create a new entity, with the Mohun Bagan supporters' backing. We cannot agree to this... we had started our movement back then, and it has gathered momentum over time."
The press conference began with a video collage that displayed the different points of contention that Mohun Bagan fans have had with KGSPL including the controversial washing machine ad, the 3 stars on the sleeve with 'defending champions' tag, the infamous third kit, the ATK Mohun Bagan website, statements made by ATK Mohun Bagan board members Utsav Parekh, Debashish Dutta, Srinjoy Bose and more.
Another fan said,
"We are no longer supporters, ATK Mohun Bagan management regards us as customers. We are not going to serve them as customers, we are supporters and we will remain supporters."
A reporter raised the question of what would happen to Mohun Bagan in terms of funding their football team if their deal with KGSPL came to an end. One of the fans on the podium answered,
"Mohun Bagan has such a huge fanbase, we are also one of the most successful clubs in the last 5-6 years. We are also regarded as a pioneer club. Somebody like Amitabh Bachchan proclaims himself as a Mohun Bagan fan in open forums. If still they are unable to bring investors to this club, it clearly points to the inefficiency of the officials."
A member of the audience brought up the issue of Utsav Parekh, a member of the ATK Mohun Bagan board of directors, saying that the fans' protests were due to some "vested interests" and suggesting Mohun Bagan fans to "forget old things" and support the team. The response from the fans was,
"If you ever see Utsav Parekh please ask him to clarify what he means by 'vested interests'... for his other comment I'd blame his lack of awareness and audacity. They expect us to forget 132 years of history and support a new entity... just earlier today one of our legends publicly called Utsav Parekh stupid for his comments."
The fans also talked about not getting a proper response from Mohun Bagan officials when they tried to discuss these issues with them,
"We have reached out to our club officials. What they tell us is, if you have something to say just come to the club. But this is not about me or what I'm saying informally. They should meet with us all collectively. Mohun Bagan fans are not terrorists, if they meet 50 of us at the club lawn we're not going to do something unseemly."
When asked why the Mohun Bagan fans had not launched this movement earlier, a fan replied,
"We are responsible citizens of India. We can't ignore COVID protocol and organize mass gathering. So we have not done that so far. But as time passes, you hear the noise from the fans outside this room, this noise will grow day by day."
Mohun Bagan official Debashish Dutta had earlier commented that the fans participating in this movement were a tiny minority of the entire fanbase. Responding to this, a fan said,
"When ISL started, many fan groups held screenings for matches. But can you show me, when ATK Mohun Bagan played the final, how many screenings took place? How many came out in the streets? We want to support, we are fans. We have gone to games and done many activities over the years, but we are being forced to do this... Mohun Bagan supporters are called the heart of the Maidaan. Don't make this supporter base turn against you. We are going to see this till the end. Our club must be returned to us."
The forum also demanded the resignation of the Mohun Bagan AC senior officials and executive committee in the case they failed to solve the current situation and ensure Mohun Bagan plays the top tier football league of India without compromising its identity.