Top 5 cases of crowd violence in Indian Footballing history
The decision of the officials to not play in the second half of the match backfired on the Mariners and as a result, the team has now been sentenced to an exile of two years. The 123-year-old Mohun Bagan had to face the most serious repercussion of crowd violence during the fateful derby on 9th December at the Salt Lake Stadium.
Going by the history books, there have there have been many instances of the crowd going berserk at the stands. Crowd violence in Indian football is not a new spectacle. Lets have a sneak peak into the top five matches where the crowd went out of control due to some disastrous performance by their favourite players and also due to some jaw-dropping decisions by the on-field referee.
It dates back to the mid 60′s when such an incident of crowd violence first occurred in the history of Indian football. Back In 1966, it was a Calcutta Football League encounter match played between East Bengal and Eastern Railways. In those times, security measures where not as tight as nowadays, and thus there were not enough police to handle to the disappointed fans who had turned up to see their favourite team win. Eastern Railways were unable to field their entire squad from the second half of the match and thus the match referee and the match commissioner decided to give East Bengal a walkover.
About 15 years from then, the next incident occurred. The date was 16th August 1980, and again it was an Calcutta Football League match. At that time, even football was played at the Eden Gardens as Salt Lake Stadium was not put into use then. It was a Kolkata Derby match-up where East Bengal hosted Mohun Bagan. The scenes were horrific at Eden Gardens and there was total mayhem. The game ended in a goalless draw and the crowd had gone mad as they were hugely upset with the end result. East Bengal’s and Mohun Bagan’s die-hard fans had started a fight amongst themselves in the stands. Every single person had to run for their lives; 16 unfortunate fans had lost their precious lives. They had died due to stampede and violence amongst the fans in the jam-packed stands of Eden Gardens.
10 years later, another incident occurred where the match could not be resumed due to the crowd violence and thus had to abandoned midway by the officials. In 1990, during the IFA Shield Final between Mohammedan Sporting and East Bengal, Mohammedan Sporting left the pitch midway through the game. The Mohammedan players were irked by a preposterous decision by the referee which awarded East Bengal a goal. According to them, the goal that was awarded against their club was not even a valid one. They opted to not play the match further and decided to leave the field as a sign of their protest against the referee. East Bengal were eventually declared as the champions.
In the inaugural season of the National League, which is now known as the I-League, an incident of crowd violence had occurred. At Margao, on 23rd February 1997, the match between Air India and Salgaocar was called off due to disturbances created by the spectators witnessing the match from the stands. Air India was trailing by a solitary goal at that point but the All India Football Federation(AIFF) decided to annul the match due to the crowd trouble and thus had to be replayed later. The 2001 IFA Shield final between East Bengal and Palmeiras of Brazil also gets the spotlight as that match was also abandoned midway when the players got involved in a brawl which ignited the crowd in the stands.
The latest incident took place on 9th December, 2012 at the Salt Lake Stadium between the arch rivals East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. It turned out to be a Bloody Sunday there at the Salt Lake Stadium. With about a hundred an twenty thousand-odd spectators turned up at the stadium, the Kolkata derby turned out to be disaster rather than a spectacle. The crowd went off their feet after Mohun Bagan’s star striker Odafa Okolie was red carded by the on-field referee. A missile was hailed from the Mohun Bagan stand towards the match referee but unfortunately it hit Syed Rahim Nabi who had to rushed to a nearby private hospital to be fitted with a plate. Mohun Bagan decided not to play their playing XI in the second half and thus had been slapped by a 2-year-ban by AIFF for breaching the code 22C.
The crowd violence in Indian football can only be stopped by deploying enough police forces and increasing security measures. Its high time that the governing body of Indian football realize this fact otherwise many such disastrous incidents are right on the cards.