A RADIO DJ LANDED in hot water with Mohun Bagan fans after he distorted the lyrics of the universally accepted club anthem on behalf of Sanjiv Goenka-led company KGSPL.
The Mohun Bagan anethem, Amader Surjo Maroon (Our Sun is Maroon) is from the movie Egaro which is about the Mohun Bagan team that won the 1911 IFA Shield, regarded as the first major triumph by an Indian club in the sport's history. It's a watershed moment in the history of Indian football, and even acted as a catalyst in the Indian freedom movement at that time.
The song, while not officially adopted as an anthem, is the undisputed fans' choice for the club's anthem and has been so for over a decade.
But Khas Koushik, an RJ for BIG FM Kolkata, changed the lyrics of the song when he was doing a paid promotion for KGSPL, who are the investors of the Mohun Bagan football team, which plays with the brand name ATK Mohun Bagan.
Instead of saying 'Mohun Bagan', the RJ said 'ATK Mohun Bagan.' And it irked the Mariners since it played into KGSPL's heavily funded PR campaign to portray the team as a "merged club" born in 2020, which implies the team is not Mohun Bagan at all despite bearing its name.
This branding strategy is seen by Mohun Bagan fans as an attempt by the Sanjiv Goenka led group to sabotage the club's identity and 133 years of history. Their distrust of the company deepened with several derogatory remarks made about Mohun Bagan by KGSPL shareholders, including Utsav Parekh who said back in 2020,
"Within six months to one year we are not going to say that you are a Mohun Bagan fan... you are an ATK Mohun Bagan fan. That is what we are striving. That is what we will do and that is what we will achieve."
In reality, the team plays with Mohun Bagan's registration, and played in AFC Cup on the slot earned by Mohun Bagan, thereby confirming that it's ultimately Mohun Bagan with an added brand prefix. Mohun Bagan's football team has used several brand names in the past depending on which sponsors and investors they were partnering with. But the multi-sport club's name has always remained Mohun Bagan Athletic Club, as it continues to remain today. But none of the previous business partners have tried to attack Mohun Bagan's identity itself, the way Sanjiv Goenka's KGSPL has done over the past two years.
KGSPL have used several tactics to suppress the protests, including banning flags and banners from the stadium and sending police after fans to take down protest banners, but have been unable to silence the fans.
The hashtags '#RemoveATK' and '#GoenkaOut' trend regularly on social media and in the recent ISL match, Mohun Bagan fans' boycott of the team rendered the galleries nearly empty.
The BIG FM "advertiesement" featuring Khas Koushik is being seen by fans as just the latest attempt by KGSPL to undermine the club's identity. And the angry responses from the fans has been so severe that Khas Koushik deleted the controversial video from his own Facebook page and BIG FM had to limit who could comment on the post in order to hide the negative reactions.
Rumours that KGSPL were about to remove the ATK prefix from the Mohun Bagan football team have surfaced several times, strategically timed to reduce fan anger before important home matches. In August, KGSPL acquired the 'Mohun Bagan SG' twitter handle and the mohunbagansupergiants dot com domain was also registered on the same day, which created the impression that the conflict between the Mohun Bagan fans and the company was about to be resolved.
But at the last moment, KGSPL decided not to correct their course, and now the anthem distortion by BIG FM shows that their efforts to subvert the Mohun Bagan identity and Bengal football culture is still very much ongoing.
Interestingly, after signing the deal with Mohun Bagan, KGSPL launched its own "official anthem" featuring pop singer Usha Utthhup in an effort to replace the Amader Surjo Maroon song, but the fans resoundingly rejected their attempt at altering Mohun Bagan fan culture. So the Sanjiv Goenka-led company's latest branding strategy seems to be centred around appropriating the song held dear by the Mariners and changing its lyrics.
Previously, similar attempts at undermining the Mohun Bagan identity were seen at an advertisement featuring a washing machine, which had to be deleted after severe protests from the fans.