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Amid Protests, State Government Goes Ahead With Khela Hobe Divas On Aug 16

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Kolkata: ‘Football Lover’s Day for fans in India, especially in Bengal is now history as it has a new moniker – ‘Khela Hobe Divas’ courtesy the state government or to be precise, CM Mamata Banerjee amid resentment from opposition parties mainly BJP.

On an ill-fated day (August 16, 1980) 16 passionate football fans lost their lives, more than 100 were injured in a stampede during the derby between arch-rivals East Bengal and Mohun Bagan at the Eden Gardens.

The stampede was caused by the zeal among fans of both the teams seated together – bit unusual and what was conspicuous was the absence of sufficient security vigilance. A foul on Bidesh Bose by Dilip Palit and the following blunders committed by the referee culminated in a pandemonium that turned fatal.

Every year for four decades on this ominous day, the oldest administrative body of football in India, the Indian Football Association (IFA ) used to organise the ‘FOOTBALL LOVER’S DAY’ as a mark of honour for the 16 passionate fans who died. All of a sudden, Banerjee decided to change the symbolic name into a very political, ‘Khela Hobe Divas’.

On Friday, August 13, state sports minister Aroop Biswas was at the receiving end of the media at a press conference held at the Secretariat building. He clearly stated that this ‘Khela Hobe Divas’ would be celebrated all over the country under the guidance of Banerjee including a soccer duel in BJP’s bastion Uttar Pradesh.

The immediate controversy regarding this Divas was the significance of the date August 16. Also on this very day in 1946, a terrible riot wreaked havoc in West Bengal – quite naturally the new coinage didn’t go down well with a significant section. Unperturbed, Biswas elaborated on the government’s plans for the occasion — an exhibition match between the Bengal football team and the Rest of India football team is slated.

IFA assures players will be vaccinated completely and all other Covid protocols will be followed. Apart from Biswas and his deputy Manoj Tiwari, other guests at the media meet included IFA president Ajit Banerjee, chairman Subrata Dutta and secretary Joydeep Mukherjee.

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