Vasco: One of Indian football’s biggest rivalries is set to take centre stage in the Indian Super League for the first time ever when ATK Mohun Bagan take on SC East Bengal in the big match, on Saturday.
There was a time earlier this year when there was uncertainty surrounding the fixture since East Bengal didn’t have the sponsoring to feature in the ISL. But now, that’s a thing of the past as the Red and Golds have made their foray into the competition and would be aiming at nothing less than a win to get things going. But they face a strong opposition in ATK Mohun Bagan and bagging all three points from the squad wouldn’t be an easy one.
Their squad, coached by Robbie Fowler boasts of big names and also has a strong Indian contingent.They include Jeje Lalpekhlua, Eugenson Lyngdoh, Balwant Singh and Debjit Majumdar among others while the international recruits include Dylan Fox, Anthony Pilkington and Jacques Maghoma. Coach Fowler is confident of his side going into their first game and his first experience of the Kolkata derby.
“Our team is full of leaders and Danny is a leader among leaders,” he said, adding, “I believe in him and feel he has the acumen to drive SCEB forward as we build up to our first game, the big derby. I have had good conversations with him and he has shown the hunger like everybody else, to deliver the goods for the team.”
He awaits a very tough challenge from ATK Mohun Bagan, a side which has star players of their own and led by the experience of Antonio Habas-the only coach in the history of the ISL to win two titles in the competition’s seven-year old history. Striker Roy Krishna, who was instrumental in ATK winning the title the last season, would once again lead his team’s charge, while his side’s reinforced defence with Tiri and Sandesh Jhingan can pose serious problems for the opposition.
ATK Mohun Bagan won their opening encounter against Kerala Blasters riding on a solitary goal by Krishna.
“The derby is a special match and it’s important for me because I know what’s the intensity in Kolkata and what it means to the supporters,” said Habas.
“We have to respect and try and bring joy to our supporters in Kolkata,” he added.
As this old rivalry enters into a new stage, fans would be eager to witness two of India’s biggest sides clash in what is expected to be a memorable encounter.