Mohun Bagan is undergoing a sorrow phase – and an ardent Mohun Bagan fan shares his feelings nervously hoping that a day will come soon when we shall smile again. Mithun Banerjee pens down his feeling herewith.

A few days or months back, the tone of this article could at best have been somewhat obtusely conciliatory, but as long suffering fans of the most significant sporting institution in the country, we must voice our disillusionment in the severest possible terms. The ignominies on the “Field of greens” aside, we are almost, as much as it pains to admit, on course to the crevices of a historical footnote and an irrelevant anachronism in the annals of Indian sporting archives. We could, of course, suspend our collective sense of disbelief and live in denial, ruminating on halcyon days, silverware, epithets and the works. But to turn a blind eye to the present travails as a transient interlude in our otherwise glittering sojourn would tantamount to inhabiting fools’ paradise.

The first half of the 1970s is still fresh in memory, but the follies were corrected after much damage had been done on the sporting pitch and to the morale of the fans. History bears testimony to the truism that foibles could be condoned, or, even better, redeemed with concerted effort and initiative. This time is different though – a cretinous bunch of motley mercenaries, glory hunters and their hangers-on seem to be on the saddle and rather firmly so. For the better part of the past half a decade and counting, they have been pushing our heartthrob, our beloved Mohun Bagan to the brink of an unmitigated cataclysm. I could be dismissed by the current crop of “Administrators” as a “Gloom and Doom” monger, a rabble-rouser and, to cap it off, not a “True Fan,” but, I would rather be their bête noir than a blinkered accomplice.

From planning, policy making, administering to delegating and implementing – the basics of project management have been flouted, ransacked and laid waste by the “Luminaries” who have sat behind desks at the Club’s office(s). The self-righteous zealots that they are, their tenure has achieved a lot of hitherto unknown feats, inter alia:

·          Stakeholders, most importantly, members and fans at large have been repeatedly hoodwinked, lied to and held ransom to an unabated flurry of gimmicks and stunts;

·          Transparency in financial matters has been consigned to oblivion;

·          Appointment of office bearers have by and large reeked of nepotistic and quid-pro-quo undertones;

·          Sports administration has become a running gag by now, with recruitment, team building and team management bereft of any semblance of sanity and propriety

·          Public relations/corporate (since the football squad is under the “Auspices” of a corporate structure) communication gaffes have become as predictable as day and night

…..and counting, so to speak.

To give the credit where it is due, our cricketing fortunes have seen a turnaround – we all know the reasons – one look at the team and broader management and the answers fall into place. But the pride of place – our footballing fortunes – has cratered into a phase of sustained tailspin. Let us felicitate the egregious bunch of “Administrators and Officials,” the current arbiters of our fate and fortunes, for the following achievements: 

·          Lending a new meaning to our “Famed” revolving door policy when it comes to recruiting and retaining Coach/Manager – the dubious distinction of having four coaches in a season in the not so distant past must make our collective constitution swell with pride

·          Stop-gap recruitment of coaching staff to suit needs for a “Local Optimum,” to borrow a term from Operations Research – mostly pliable nobodies (Mr. Santosh Kashyap, here’s looking at you, Kid!), Old Boys (Bablu Da always has unfinished business or some other agenda of his own but does respond to clarion calls; Biswajit Bhattacharya is a favourite fall guy who almost used to be on beck and call; Alok Mukherjee – one wonders why he fell for this), unheralded “John Doe”s (Robson, Chima?)…watch this space

·          Goalkeeping mentor – what good has Hemanta Dora achieved over the years, pray tell?

·          Breaking almost unheard of grounds in our team building history – tapping a steady stream of has-beens, spent forces, also-rans and at best mediocre “Finds” and signing them on the back of premium billing and concocted fanfare. Let us think through a few names, as passing examples:

o   Venkatesh – at which phase of his sporting career did we welcome him?

o   N. P. Pradeep – Central/Defensive Midfielder who was a near-geriatric and passerby, a rank outcast in the national squad. Why him?

o   Anwar Ali – Way past his sell-by date when he came on board presumable as a panacea of sorts for our central defensive frailties

o   Mohanraj – a proven failure when it comes to stepping up to the plate, we kept welcoming him back. Some love never lost!

o   Mickey Fernandes, Kulothungan, Shubho Kumar – seriously, could our forefathers have ever conceived that such a triumvirate would don the hallowed jersey and keep stabbing our chances in the midfield?

o   Biswajit Saha, Khelemba, Fanai – show me any top team which would even go close to letting them mop the premises;

o   Denson Devadas – Diamond in the rough, after the rough has been abandoned and the diamond lost the lustre long back. Why Jayanta Sen in 2010 rather than Denson back then? And why the heck now?

o   Diamondstar, Simon Storey, Daniel Zeleny – need one say more?

o   Rakesh Masih – It’s been 5 years and counting, Son! Go and get a life, please! If you don’t spare us, I don’t see who else will!

o   Snehashis Chakraborty – our left half is actually a vacuum, or an optical illusion

o   Manish Maithani – that one wonder performance in October 2009 earned him lifetime employment guarantee, is it?

o   …..please populate this space – we could have an encyclopaedia!

·          Letting go of recruits when they started hitting the right notes:

o   Sueoka – we needed a sliver of midfield creativity, for Heaven’s sake!

o   Peter Odafe – and that explains our never ending efforts to fill a hole the size of Zimbabwe!

o   Deepak Mondal – How he was culpable is something one would never know;

o   …use your imagination, thank you very much

·          Ratcheting up a publicity and propaganda smokescreen every time an existential crisis emerges:

o   “Love letters” to the AIFF, IFA, FIFA and may be some inter-galactic authority we don’t know of yet – the pretexts and contexts are trivial, but the drums keep beating louder

o   “The Great (Tolgay) Train Heist” – no quarters given for the resources squandered and their opportunity cost(s)

o   “Dream Team” – a moniker mostly gathering dust now

o   Chamok (Bengali word)” – does it evoke surprise or shock these days?

o   Kit deals and other endorsements – all jazz and media circus to keep obfuscating our on-field travails

·          Running individual fiefdoms with attendant turf protection skirmishes –this ensures our footballing strategy, matchday plans/tactics and intelligent analyses of failures always remain in the backburner. One look at our current formation and you know where we stand. Any, I repeat – any opposition deems us a soft target these days despite the lip service in the other direction

·          A complete absence of any form of accountability and disincentives for underperformance – remember the much repeated adage of “Ami keno resign korbo? Ami ki team eka chalacchi?”

We fans are, by definition, a sorry bunch. Always prone to over the top reactions to peaks and troughs, our thought process is mostly held ransom to our hearts. Always enshrine idols and desecrate fallen idols in equal measure. Always look to chase rainbows in our minds. Always gullible and taken in by dream merchants and snake oil sales pitches. And almost always taken for a joyride. Always keep smiling even when it all ends up in tears and bloodshed. Always keeping the faith alive. Always forgiving and forgetting.

But not anymore please!

I have taken up much space and sounded way too cynical and incoherent. My apologies to you, the fans, should you deem this to be a waste of your valuable time. But to the officials, I just say these few things – leave us in peace. We would be able to sort out our own mess. Yes, the light at the end of the tunnel now is that of the approaching train, but I do hope it does run your lot over and leave you in the most unrecognizable of shapes possible.

From the desk to Mithun Banerjee


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