Indian Super Cup 2018: "We have missed playing against Mohun Bagan," says Bengaluru FC CTO Mandar Tamhane
"We will always remember that." Mandar Tamhane hasn't forgotten the eight season of I-League. Bengaluru FC's second. Back in 2014, with four minutes left to play, Mohun Bagan scored a late equaliser against The Blues and in the process, won the I-League by just two points.
Over the past five years, these two sides have locked horns over a dozen times across various competitions - I-League, Federation Cup and the AFC Cup. Off late though, they haven't had the chance to pit themselves against each other.
On Tuesday, they will clash in the city of Bhubaneswar for a place in the finals of the 2018 Indian Super Cup. The winner of this tie will face East Bengal in the summit clash, and Mandar, Bengaluru's Chief Technical Officer (CTO) is eagerly looking forward to the Bagan clash.
"We have missed them over the last year. They've been an opponent who we have played the maximum number of times. It has developed into a healthy rivalry which is good for football.
"We played our first game as a professional football club in 2013 against Mohun Bagan in the I-League. We are looking forward to the game. It will rekindle some fond and even some not so fond memories (laughs)," he added.
Despite the intense rivalry between these two sides, Mandar puts things into perspective. The Blues are not out for vengeance and are merely treating this tie as just another football game.
"There is no revenge, at the end of the day, on that day they were good enough to secure the draw. We have moved on. It's very different now, the teams are different, the coaches are different. We are not looking for a payback," he said.
However, the fans exude a different vibe, something that Mandar has come to terms with and recognises the importance of this rivalry for the game as a whole in India - "There is no animosity or bad blood between us. The fans make it more fierce which is good for the sport. As long as both the fans keep it healthy," he cautions.
With the game set to take place at Kalinga stadium in Bhubaneshwar, 1,437 km away from the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Mandar expects a certain number of fans to show up. He does realize that the number of Bagan fans could be larger in number, given the fact that it's only a 400km trip for them.
Despite the disparity in numbers, Mandar believes that in the modern day and age, the fan-banter has evolved, into one that is mainly carried out on the social media.
"The fans rivalry need not be restricted to the stadium. There is a lot of banter happening on social media. At the end of the day, to come on a weekday and support your club, outside your home city, just shows how passionate those fans are. Due respect to them," he states.
The last time these two sides met, Bengaluru clinched the Federation Cup 3-3 on aggregate (away goals). Having lost the away game 1-3, they secured the title with a 2-0 victory on home turf. The Kolkata based outfit does have a better head-to-head record winning five of the thirteen matches, compared to Bengaluru's three wins.
"We can expect more Bagan fans due to the proximity of the location. Not sure how many Bengaluru fans will be travelling since it's far off. The numbers if not maximum, it will be enough to keep the rivalry alive."
Regardless of the number of fans, Mandar himself will be travelling to Bhubaneswar to watch the game. "I always travel to all our away games. So you can e sure I'll be there in Bhubaneswar," he said.
They might be in two different leagues, but Bengaluru FC and Mohun Bagan, through their positive results over the years, had built up a unique rivalry, on that did not merely depended on the fans.
They were both at the top of their leagues, or at the business end of cup competitions, something that added to their clashes. This time too, the semifinal tag for the clash only goes on to increase its importance.