THE MOHUN BAGAN FANS are continuting with their 'Break The Merger' protests, with a renewed emphasis on holding their own officials responsible for the club's ongoing identity crisis.
Recently, a petition was launched on Change.org where Mohun Bagan fans demanded that the club must come out of the deal with Kolkata Games and Sports Private Limited (KGSPL) over its football team. As of the time of writing this article, the petition has got almost 5,000 signatures.
This is happening along with an almost unanimous boycott of ATK Mohun Bagan FC's matches by the major Mohun Bagan fan clubs. The Mariners also recently held a protest where they burned the effigy of KGSPL shareholder Utsav Parekh over his statements that insulted Mohun Bagan.
The fans are also seeking out Mohun Bagan officials in public events and demanding that they remove all references to 'ATK' from the identity of Mohun Bagan's football team.
The ongoing Durand Cup matches have also seen some Mohun Bagan fans showing up at Mohammedan Sporting's games with banners demanding to 'Break The Merger.'
But what sets the petititon apart from the regular shows of dissent and protest from Mohun Bagan fans is how it focuses on the politics within the Mohun Bagan Athletic Club itself. One of the fans behind this campaign, speaking to TFG on the condition of anonimity, said,
"Time and again it was pointed out by various official sources that this 'Remove ATK' is a stray case of 200 people shouting online. The signatures will establish that it not 200. 10,000 online signatures in case of Mohun bagan fans who don't have a major presence on social media with valid mail id, proves there are at least 2 lakh supporters of this cause offline. In short, it's to establish we're not just 200 fans backing this cause. And so far we've got almost 5,000 signatures. If even 1,000 of them are from members, then it has implications within the club since the average voting in Mohun Bagan's elections is approximately 5,500."
Even in the protest held earlier, there were signs of the fans seeking to hold their elected club officials accountable for allowing KGSPL to take such liberty with the team's name and identity in the first place. The fans chanted against the Mohun Bagan officials just as much as the KGSPL management.
As of this morning there has been some strategic response to the ongoing situation from the KGSPL management. The short bio of ATK Mohun Bagan FC, displayed on its official website and social media pages, has been altered. It no longer calls the team a "new merged club." Instead, it says,
"Established on 15th August 1889, Mohun Bagan Athletic Club is one of the oldest clubs in India and the World. ATK FC was founded in May 2014 to represent Kolkata in the Indian Super League (ISL). In July 2020, the Football section of Mohun Bagan AC and ATK FC came together to form a company under the banner ATK Mohun Bagan FC.
ATK Mohun Bagan FC continues with the existing registration of Mohun Bagan Athletic Club with AIFF/IFA and its rich history and tradition. It made its first ISL appearance in Season 7 and finished runner-up in its very first season."
Although it has been known from the start that ATK Mohun Bagan FC have used Mohun Bagan's registration and are therefore technically a continuation of Mohun Bagan, this is the first time the KGSPL management has personally acknowledged it. This, however, directly contradicts their previous, evolving stances. KGSPL tried to project ATK Mohun Bagan as a continuation of ATK FC by putting the words 'ISL 2019-20 Defending Champions' on its sleeve, but after Mohun Bagan fans protested, they removed that but tried to call it a "new merged club."
To impose this branding, KGSPL management went as far as contacting AFC asking them to stop mentioning Mohun Bagan's past AFC Cup records, and call it an AFC Cup debutant instead. They also asked them to change the name used for the on-screen scoreboard in AFC Cup matches from 'Mohun Bagan' to 'ATKMB FC.'
But this new bio may be a sign that they are quietly distancing themselves from the previous two narratives. Although it's not a full retraction because it still makes references to ATK FC and Mohun Bagan "coming together", a PR spin on the deal that actually happened between Mohun Bagan and KGSPL. However, the biggest shift in the bio is finally admitting that what they formed was a "new company", something they have been calling a "new club" all this time.
However, the majority of Mohun Bagan fans responding to this move online do not seem to be satisfied with it. One said,
"We can't take chances with this management. They will placate fans with these small concessions, and once we start supporting the team again then they will again try to impose the ATK brand on us."
Another one asserted,
"The day they say ATK Mohun Bagan has 5 NFL/I-League titles, 14 Fed Cups, 16 Durand Cups, 30 CFL's etc, that they I'll consider if it's a continuation of Mohun Bagan or not. Before that, I won't believe any statement from them. It's all eyewash."