Kolkata, June 30 (IANS) Mohun Bagan may have its roots in the rich history of Indian football but is at present struggling to breathe.
Almost a month after bringing home the coveted I-League after 13 years, Mohun Bagan is still having problems solving monetary issues and attracting investors.
The club’s general secretary, Anjan Mitra, hopes the triumph will attract sponsors. Mitra, who has been associated with the club for a very long time, had earlier said it was not able to pay the fees of some players owing to a financial crisis and insisted the crunch is still on.
“The financial crunch is still on. There’s a legal problem that is going on right now. We hope to settle this issue very soon and do something for the club. I hope this success (of winning the I-League) will attract sponsors too,” Mitra told IANS in an interview.
Mitra again emphasised on sponsorship when asked about the immediate goals for the club saying one cannot go ahead with empty hands.
“We have to solve this sponsorship problem quickly; the faster the merrier. And we have to settle on the team for the next season too, but you cannot go ahead with shortage of funds; so we have to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.”
Mohun Bagan, along with eternal foes East Bengal, is currently sponsored by the United Breweries group.
Mohun Bagan, formed in 1889, won its first major title in July 29, 1911, beating East Yorkshire Regiment 2-1 to claim the Indian Football Association (IFA) shield. The win aroused nationalistic fervour among Indians who desperately sought freedom from the imperialist British rule.
Since then it has grown from strength to strength to become one of the dominant forces in Indian football, winning the national football league four times and a host of other major trophies.
But will the glorious past and the promise of a bright future be erased because of a financial crisis?
Apart from the monetary issue, the I-League, the country’s premier football competition, faces an existential crisis from the Indian Super League (ISL).
With the prospect of the two leagues getting merged by the All India Football Federation (AIFF), will traditional clubs like Mohun Bagan cease to exist? Mitra doesn’t rule out such a possibility.
“In Indian football anything and everything is possible. Whatever the AIFF decides we have to abide by it; we are neither in the committee nor in a position to comment on the issue. So we will just wait and watch what happens; there is nothing on our hands.”
Mitra also took a dig at the franchise-based clubs that are in vogue in the ISL, saying they lack stability and don’t offer a guaranteed future.
“Professional clubs lack permanency. You see what happened with Mahindra United (that closed down in 2010). Today they might be here, but tomorrow they may not exist. But clubs like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are public-oriented and will come through no matter what,” he said.
Mitra also insisted that his team was spending a lot on its grassroots development programme which would enable a steady flow of players into the senior team.
“Tell me which other club is spending like us,” he asked.
“We have a residential academy where 100 percent placements are provided; we have developed the Under-14, -16 and -19 teams. We are working seriously to develop the grassroots, but when you talk of infrastructure, that cannot be changed in a day or two,” Mitra said.
(Debdoot Das can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)