How do you keep the Calcutta Football League away from controversy? In a season that saw scintillating action, the supposed final day of the local league was marred by an unseemly mess that is well and truly unfair to the fairy-tale side of the year, Peerless, who probably deserve to be champions.
The day began with three probable contenders for the historic league title, record-winners East Bengal, their arch-rivals Mohun Bagan and office club Peerless, who had finished runners' up against all odds last year and had beaten both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal by convincing margins to set up a first triumph by a team outside the dominant triumvirate (the other member being Mohammedan SC) in 58 years.
Both East Bengal and Peerless were on 20 points each, while Mohun Bagan had 17 points, heading into the triple-header that was supposed to round off a dramatic final day. But it was not to be.
(Not) Down the drain
The unlikely culprit of the day was East Bengal ground's faulty drainage system that ensures Peerless will still have to wait for their maiden title despite a professional performance under tremendous pressure in Barasat that saw them run out 2-0 winners over George Telegraph, thanks to their goalscoring hero with a vengeance, Ansumana Kromah who has been in stupendous form of late.
However, the East Bengal-Customs game was declared a no-go because of water-logging near one of the corner flags. It is still not clear whether the game will be forfeited or played at a later date. If it is, then the Red and Golds will have to win by a seven-goal margin to snatch the league away from the 61-year-old office club. If the game does take place and East Bengal do manage such an unlikely big win, it will be a stupendous achievement from the Red and Golds.
On the other hand, Mohun Bagan beat Kalighat MS 3-0 to finish on 20 points.
The city has been lashed by incessant rains over the last few days but it is still an unseemly turn of events for the Indian Football Association-run league and a tad strange that a club with such modern amenities as East Bengal failed to drain the water flooding the corner post despite the sun coming out towards the afternoon.
The ground conditions should have been suitable enough to at least have a game. Fans draped in red an gold clothes waited patiently before walking out of the ground once the referee made the final decision to call off the match, leaving the organisers shamefaced.
For the veteran coach Jahar Das and his team of unheralded Bengali talents such as Laxmikanta Mandi and stars with a point to prove like Kromah, the wait for this unprecedented triumph increases for no fault of their own. It is a triumph that will only benefit football in Bengal and add another colourful chapter to the storied history of the league.