MOHUN BAGAN have written a letter to AIFF asking for a preponement of the first Kolkata Derby in I-League 2015-16 due to their Asian commitments.
The defending champions are scheduled to play their arch-rivals East Bengal on 24th January. But they are supposed to play S-League club Tampine Rovers in the first round of qualifiers for the AFC Champions League on 27th January. To allow them time to prepare, Bagan have requested that the Derby is played on 23rd January instead.
The historic Derby match which has been a showpiece fixture for Indian football for almost a century, draws one of the biggest crowds for any football match in the world. Keeping that in mind, the Derby is almost always played on a Sunday to ensure maximum publicity and ticket sales. But 23rd January, despite being a Saturday, falls on a public holiday in the state (Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose birth anniversary) so ticket sales are less likely to be affected due to the change of date.
But what may become a hindrance to this fixture change is the availability of adequate security. Since on 23rd January various high profile events are held across the city in honour of the legendary freedom fighter, the police force will be stretched thin to provide security in so many events at the same time. This may cause them to deny permission for the Derby to take place.
The fixture has been forced to change dates a number of times in the past due to the police being unable to provide enough numbers to provide security at the stadium. Since there is a fierce rivalry between fans of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan that has often turned violent, the police are highly reluctant to take chances with the security arrangements around this match; especially in the light of the Black Derby in 2012 which resulted in several people getting injured, including a player.
But if the date is not changed Mohun Bagan may be left with just 2 days to prepare for their first continental competitive match since 2009; which is something the Mariners' management is intent on avoiding at all cost.