A tale of two loyalties

16 April,2024 11:52 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Srijanee Majumdar

This was Mohun Bagan’s maiden triumph over the two-time Shield Winners Mumbai across four seasons, who, having remained unbeaten in previous eight encounters, had won six of them

Mohun Bagan fans displaying a tifo during Monday`s encounter with Mumbai City FC (Pic: @mohunbagansg/x)

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Ujjwal Ghosh, an unwavering devotee of Mohun Bagan Super Giant, had never been too keen on visiting his in-laws in Worli, but for a few weeks recently, the idea grew particularly disagreeable to him. "Yes, however hard they try to control, I keep seeing a smirk on their faces each time we discuss football now," said the marketing manager from Deloitte.

"I feel sorry for my wife, it's like multitasking for her. (smiled) At her maternal place, she supports Mumbai, her home team, but when she is with me, she is all cheers for Bagan. You'll see how I make a Bagan fan out of her in the next few years. (smiled)," he added.

Ujjwal, radiating the timeless allure of Mohun Bagan's green and maroon, and wife Mansi, resplendent in the blues of Mumbai City, were among the throng of 60,000 spectators at Kolkata's Salt Lake stadium on Monday. "I think I should cheer for Bagan from now onwards," quipped Mansi, seconds after Jason Cummings scored off a pass from Dimitri Petratos in the 80th minute from just inside the box to hit into the bottom corner.

Also Read: The price of passion!

"I'm so relieved. This win means a lot to me, and you know why. My in-laws haven't been texting since Bagan won," murmured Ujjwal, mindful of Mansi's watchful gaze. While the pitched rivalry lives on, uninterrupted, Ujjwal and Mansi's marriage appears to face no threat from their seemingly incompatible football preferences. "We often hear about parents forbidding interfaith marriages, but I think in our case, it has to do more with what football clubs we follow…United or Liverpool, Arsenal or Spurs…I don't know what would have been the case if my father-in-law was an East Bengal fan. (smiled) But jokes apart, above all, we are lovers of this beautiful game and that makes us whole," he said.

Notably, this was Mohun Bagan's maiden triumph over the two-time Shield Winners Mumbai across four seasons, who, having remained unbeaten in previous eight encounters, had won six of them. Consequently, Monday's result confirmed Mohun Bagan's ticket to the AFC Champions League 2 for the first time as the stadium pulsated with the rhythm of chants and cheers, a cacophony of devotion to the club colours.

Also Read: This month that year: A journey through time

All it took was 28 minutes to remove any doubt about the Mariners' resolve, and for Mumbai, it only got worse. So often the provider of goals, Petratos delivered a precise cross-field pass in the direction of India centre-forward Liston Colaco that saw the hosts assume the lead in front of a sellout crowd.

Following the opening goal, the match resigned to the meticulous choreography of a ballet, each movement calculated, yet imbued with spontaneity. The Mariners, with their trademark flair and finesse, sought to impose their will upon the proceedings. Every touch, every pass, was executed with precision, a testament to the hours of toil on the training ground. Yet, Mumbai City proved to be a resilient adversary, marshalling their defences with steely resolve. Like a fortress under siege, they repelled wave after wave of attacks, with their goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa assuming the role of a bastion of defiance between the posts. But the evening was not kind to Lachenpa and his comrades.

Mumbai, steering ahead with a refusal to capitulate in the face of adversity, can now only take consolation from its solitary goal against the run of play in the 89th minute by Lallianzuala Chhangte. As for their fans who dispersed into the night, their hearts still aflutter with the euphoria of the contest, they knew that though the battle may have ended in a stalemate, the war rages on. For in the world of football, as in life, it is not the victories or defeats that define us, but the passion, camaraderie, and spirit of competition that unite us all as one.

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