THE CALL TO remove the ATK prefix from Mohun Bagan's name, which has been mostly put forth by the club's fanbase so far, has now entered the political arena as well.
On the day when Swapan Bandyopadyay, brother of West Bengal's chief minister Mamata Bandyopadhyay, was elected as the football secretary of Mohun Bagan Athletic Club for the 2022-25 administrative session, the spokesperson of the state's ruling party openly called for the prefix to be removed from the brand name of the club's football division.
Kunal Ghosh, who serves as the State General Secretary and the Spokesperson at All India Trinamool Congress, congratulated the new Mohun Bagan Executive Committee, which was appointed today unopposed, in a social media post. He then added,
"Let sponsors come. Let investors stay. Take timely and realistic steps. But let the efforts begin to remove the reference to ATK, a different club, from Mohun Bagan's name. Joy Mohun Bagan."
Ghosh has been associated with Indian football clubs in the past when he was the director of the Saradha Group, which co-sponsored multiple clubs in Kolkata before collapsing in what became the biggest financial scandal of the time.
However, he is not alone in the political world supporting the 'Remove ATK' movement. Several notable people across the political spectrum, who are self-admitted Mohun Bagan fans, have expressed concern over how the presence of the prefix and KGSPL's framing of the team as a "merged club" undermines the Mariners' history & identity; although most have not openly called for a removal of the prefix yet.
KGSPL, which previously owned the ISL franchise ATK FC, added that brand name to Mohun Bagan's football team when they bought majority stakes in Mohun Bagan Athletic Club's football division, calling it 'ATK Mohun Bagan FC.'
The branding campaign which followed has at various times made self-contradictory claims of the team being a "merged club" born in 2020, or a continuation of the ATK FC franchise. In actuality, the team is Mohun Bagan with a re-branding, evident by its use of Mohun Bagan's registration and merit-based slots.
Mohun Bagan fans have seen this manufactured narrative from KGSPL as a means to undermine their club's 132+ years of history and identity, and carried out multiple protests over the last 2 years both online and offline. However, their demand to remove the prefix has never had direct support from a person of authority far; at least not directly.
But that has seemingly started to change. Debashish Dutta, who has been appointed as the new General Secretary of the club and serves as a board of director at ATK Mohun Bagan FC, does not usually deviate from the investor KGSPL's narrative. But recently in an interview before the ISL playoff semi-finals, he repeatedly called the team only Mohun Bagan, and made a reference to the team being 130+ years old; which goes directly against the "merger" narrative by KGSPL which claims this team is a new club born in 2020.
Together, these recent events have created a renewed stir among the club's fans who have been preparing to continue their movement during the upcoming AFC Cup matches in Kolkata.
Coincidentally, WB Chief Minister Mamata Bandyopadhyay has been playing an active role in helping out Kolkata's football clubs in recent years. In 2020, she helped East Bengal reach an interim agreement with their investors Shree Cement Limited, which helped them enter the Indian Super League. She has also made statements in the past saying many of her family members are lifelong fans of Mohun Bagan.
With her own brother being a major official of Mohun Bagan, and now her party's spokesperson calling to 'Remove ATK', the Maidaan has become rife with speculation over whether she may be indicating her own support for the Mohun Bagan fans' demands to restore and respect the iconic club's history and identity.