‘Insult to Kolkata’s sporting culture, an undemocratic step’: East Bengal writes to CAB, Mohun Bagan slams KKR for jersey ban

The fracas over football jerseys between Kolkata Knight Riders and the fans of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan continues to rumble on. Days after their fans alleged with video visuals that they were denied entry into the Eden Gardens stadium for wearing their football jerseys, East Bengal has written a letter to the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), asking them ‘as the guardian of the cricketing fraternity in Bengal’, to intervene to protect the right of every fan to don the jersey or colour of his choice.

The incidents occurred when KKR hosted Lucknow SuperGiants (LSG) on May 20 at the Eden Gardens. Both LSG and ATKMB, which will be officially renamed as Mohun Bagan Super Giant from June 1, are owned by the RP Sanjiv Goenka Group. It all happened after LSG decided to pay tribute to Kolkata’s legacy football club, which is also the defending Indian Super League (ISL) champion, by wearing their colours.

In the strongly worded letter, which was sent on Thursday and a copy of which is in possession with The Indian Express, East Bengal assistant general secretary Rupak Saha wrote: “The franchisees may not understand the legacy of East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, or Mohammedan Sporting but being a veteran of the Maidan and also having played 6-7 yrs and captained East Bengal you understand the pulse and sentiments of your club and its millions of supporters. We would urge you to kindly ensure that the franchisees are refrained from taking any such undemocratic steps in the days to come.”

East Bengal executive committee official Debabrata Sarkar confirmed that the letter was sent.

“It doesn’t seem they know the history of a 100-year-old club. Nowhere in the world has such a thing happened, and is there a dress code now for IPL? We have sent the letter to CAB and wish to know exactly the problem. Who is the person behind this decision? So many of my friends have been to different football venues, and one of my friends went to the FIFA World Cup but was never stopped for wearing the East Bengal. So why is such a thing happening in our country?” Sarkar said.

On the day of the match, a section of Mohun Bagan fans alleged that they were not allowed to enter the iconic Eden Gardens because their t-shirts and scarves had Mohun Bagan’s logo on them. Later videos emerged online that showed that even supporters wearing East Bengal jerseys were also barred and eventually allowed only after black tapes were put on jerseys.

This has led to East Bengal writing a letter to CAB, reminding them that franchisees may need help understanding the history, legacy and emotion attached to the legendary football clubs.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Mohun Bagan general secretary Debashish Dutta said that while they did not write a letter, he deemed the entire episode as unnecessary and unprofessional behaviour. “It is an insult to Kolkata’s sporting culture, and the IPL franchisees need to be more careful.”

“We strongly condemn this decision of disrespecting the fans of one of the most iconic football clubs of India and hurting the sentiment of our supporters,” he added.

“Why will someone else decide what he/she will wear to a stadium?” he questioned.

When the CAB was approached for a comment, they refused to talk on the matter, but an official on anonymity conditions confirmed that they had received the letter.

Meanwhile, KKR issued a statement that refuted claims that the franchise had stopped fans wearing the Mohun Bagan jersey from entering the Eden Gardens during the recently concluded IPL match against Lucknow SuperGiants. Dubbing the claims as misleading, KKR had accused the Goenka group of “ambush marketing”.

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