The ball found the back of the net in the 86th minute, the eager wait of 13 years seemed to end for the supporters of Mohun Bagan, just as the rain comes after a spell of heat wave during the scorching summer.
Yes, it was a drought, a trophy drought which lasted for over a decade. Winning the I-League marked the beginning of a new era for Mohun Bagan, one of the most prestigious club in India as well as one of the most historic clubs in Asia.
Being a Bagan supporter myself, I could feel the emotions of the people around Kolkata, the Mecca of Indian football. Everyone could feel the buzz in the air four-five days before the penultimate match against the reigning champions Bengalurlu FC.
The hype in the media, newspapers, flags being hoisted in all corners in the streets, there were giant screens installed in the streets for the final showdown, even a few movie theatres were screening the match. It was more of a carnival than just a football match.
It was unlike any other season in the I-League, the championship title would be decided in the last scheduled match of the season. Bangalore FC, the defending champions, was also the home side in the last match. Bengaluru FC needed a win in that encounter; on the other hand, a draw would be enough for Mohun Bagan to lift the trophy.
The Sree Kanteerava Stadium had an electrifying atmosphere, thanks to thousands of supporters who were present over there. The majority of them were backing the home side, though there was a large portion of Bagan supporters who came all the way from West Bengal.
It was a clash between a club formed a year ago, and a club which was 126 years old; it was formed 13 years before the birth of Real Madrid C.F. It was more than 4000 days since Mohun Bagan won their last National League (now I-League), and it was 5 years since they won a trophy of any sort, last being the Calcutta Football League.
It was the defending champions who scored first in the 42nd minute, with a header from John Johnson. The lead was hard to break; the equalizer came just 4 minutes before the 90th minute. Till then, the anxious followers of Bagan had their fingers crossed. It was Bello Rasaq, the defender who stood tall as the wall of china before the Bagan goal throughout the season, who showed his scoring skills, in the last match.
It proved be the most important goal of the whole season. The head was a strong one, from the corner of Sony Norde, the man who was the main reason for Bagan’s spectacular show this season.
As soon as the ball rolled over the goal line, the people back in Kolkata knew they are a few minutes away from national triumph. The sorrow of waiting for 13 years would be healed within few minutes.
It was a well fought match, neither of the team gave away an inch. The battle in the mid-field was a treat to watch, Mohun Bagan’s possession was better than their rivals and they also managed to get more shots on target.
Yet, Bengaluru FC capitalized on their opportunity and scored a goal. After that, Bagan dominated the field. They were attacking continuously, Sony Norde, Katsumi Yusa and Pierre Boye, evevryone gave their best, there were many shots on goal, but Bengaluru FC’s goalkeeper stood firm, denying the ball into the net. Finally, the deadlock was broken by their star defender Bello Rasaq, who had scored from such headers before.
The final whistle sounded like a sweet baritone, it ensured that the party in the city of joy would go late into the night. The sound of crackers continued several minutes after the match. The celebration knew no bounds, processions dominated the roads, and people were chanting the name of their favorite club and shouting in joy. They were caught amongst the euphoria which was created by winning the national title after long periods of trophy-less seasons.
The celebration continued to the next day. The team was received in the Kolkata airport in a grand manner. People gathered before an hour of the flight landed in the city. I was also present there, being a die-hard supporter of Mohun Bagan since childhood.
It was a sight which I saw for the first time. Thousands of people were waiting for the arrival of their heroes; they would be a part of the journey along with the team bus to the club ground.
The players boarded the bus at about 2.00 pm. The people who had cars and bikes remained glued to the team as bees stick to the beehive. The 15 kilometer drive from the airport to the club ground took more than two and a half hours, more than the time needed for the team to land in Kolkata from Bangalore.
The local traffic was hampered and a sea of people were seen travelling the city along with the bus. The team reached the club around 5 pm. The ground was decorated to the fullest. It was lit up with green and maroon everywhere.
The officials greeted the players, and the grand flag was hoisted in the club lawn. When the grand party was about to get dismissed, the supporters were all over the stadium, looking at the green, and hoped that flowers would again bloom in the garden for years to come.Published 10 Jun 2015, 16:21 IST