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New goal for Mohun Bagan

Nostalgia must not snuff out pragmatism when football is being revolutionised by commerce and entertainment

By The Editorial Board

  • Published 21.01.20, 2:12 AM
  • Updated 21.01.20, 2:12 AM
Mohun Bagan will be hoping that it would walk down the hallowed corridors of the ISL, the tournament that now claims, with quite a bit of help from the All India Football Federation, to be India’s premier football competition, by holding on to ATK’s hand.
Mohun Bagan will be hoping that it would walk down the hallowed corridors of the ISL, the tournament that now claims, with quite a bit of help from the All India Football Federation, to be India’s premier football competition, by holding on to ATK’s hand. Shutterstock

A marriage of convenience may not always be a bad thing. It can, at times, come with unexpected blessings for the two partners. Consider the union of Mohun Bagan, one of Calcutta’s oldest and most successful football clubs, with ATK, a franchise that is part of the Indian Super League. Mohun Bagan will be hoping that it would walk down the hallowed corridors of the ISL, the tournament that now claims, with quite a bit of help from the All India Football Federation, to be India’s premier football competition, by holding on to ATK’s hand. The marriage is also likely to sweeten ATK’s prospects of creating a niche for itself within Calcutta’s football fraternity, which has remained stubbornly faithful in its support for traditional powerhouses such as Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.

But nuptials bring with them their own set of uncertainties, especially when the power dynamics of the relationship are expected to be asymmetrical. Mohun Bagan sold 80 per cent of its stakes to make the merger possible. The dire financial prospects of the Maidan giant must have been a deciding factor in this trade-off. The unequal partnership has been a matter of concern for the fans who believe that the rich history and legacy aboard the Mariners’ boat would now be drowned by the imperatives of corporatization. Yet it cannot be denied that the commercialization of football is the key to the survival of not just the game but also of clubs. Some of the most successful football clubs — Manchester City, Barcelona, Bayern Munich to cite a few examples — operate like well oiled corporations with the profits ploughed back to support not only patrons and players but also the beautiful game itself. Nostalgia must not be allowed to snuff out the spirit of pragmatism at a time when football itself is being revolutionized by the cocktail of commerce and entertainment. However, what Mohun Bagan and ATK — the newly-weds — must bear in mind is their commitment to raise the standards of Indian football. Fresh funds, quality infrastructure and professionalism could create an enduring supply chain of talent that would eventually help better India’s dismal Fifa rankings. If that were to happen, ATK-Mohun Bagan would be proud parents of an exciting crop of future stars.

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