JUST WHEN IT SEEMED like Churchill Brothers had finally pulled off a sensational comeback and were cruising towards a famous victory, the lights went out at Tilak Maidan.
It happened without warning. First, the North stand went out. And before anyone could react, the South stand went dark too, plunging the whole stadium with its 4,000-odd spectators into complete darkness.
With both the floodlights stands out, and the stadium only receiving a dim glow from the nearby harbour, the pale yellow light showed an arena drowned in confusion. The players stood in the middle not knowing what to do, ground officials ran around, the fans tried to assess their surrounding through the light of mobile phones.
What had happened? It turns out, the two generatora that are usually used to power the floodlights has to pull through a regular overload and needs to be constantly cooled with water. But some electrical fault had caused it to overheat more than usual. And that's what caused the outage.
As the referees, team managers and coaches all discussed option on the mostly dark pitch, ground staff memebers ran around trying to get the generator to work again. They managed to turn the South stand back on but the as the North stand was powered in, the generators gave out again. Darkness fell on the Tilak Maidan once again.
All but 10 minutes of action remained to be played, and Churchill were having this unexpected trouble just ahead of clinching their much needed 3 points. As the players did some ight stretching to keep themselves warm for the remainder of the game, the clock ticked away on the maximum waiting limit the match commissioner could allow: one hour.
Mohun Bagan financial secretary Debashish Dutta also got in the act, reading out rules from his mobile phones to the match commissioner regarding what to do during such situations. From time to time, the captains were coming in to have a chat with the referee and match commissioner. The ground staff were running back and forth between the generator and the touchline, giving the latest reports on what was happening.
But Churchill Brothers' victory wasn't about to be jeopardized by this, though. The rule says the match commissioner can wait one hour maximum to re-start a match in situations like this. If it doesn't begin by then, the rest of the match is to be played next day. Which meant even if the lights were out for good, the two teams would meet on Sunday to play for 10 minutes under the good old daylight. The existing scoreline would not be thrown away.
The anxious East Bengal official who was calling up journalists at the press box to find out what was happening had nothing to worry about.
The problem that was occurring with the generators was that one of the people taking care of them was too scared to pour water directly on them, fearing they would blow up or something. After repeated assurances that it was safe to do it, water was finally poured over the generators and after a total of 45 minutes of wait the two stands finally came back online.
The rest of the 10 minutes were playerd out without much of an incident. But the way the lights-out situation was handled exposed the inexperience of some of the staff in charge of taking care of crucial things at the Tilak Maidan. Whether or not AIFF will move to fine Churchill Brothers is another matter; a power outage in a high profile match being beamed to a national audience is a bad example to set.