Seeking to channel football’s all-pervading popularity in Bengal towards extending political control, the Trinamool Congress is spreading its tentacles in the sport’s administration
DODGE AND DRIBBLE: Mamata Banerjee inaugurates the Durand Cup in Kolkata, Aug. 3 (Photo: Debajyoti Chakraborty)
Bengal’s all-consuming and undiluted love for football has an early milestone. In 1911, Mohun Bagan became the first Indian side to win the IFA Shield after defeating the East Yorkshire regiment. Footballing success thereafter generated fierce nationalistic pride, serving as a sporting adjunct of the freedom movement. In recent decades, the passion for football has come in useful for political purposes, too. Khela Hobe (the game’s on) became Mamata’s rallying cry in the 2021 assembly election, as broken foot and all, she led the Trinamool Congress to a magnificent win. She was certainly not the first to realise the demotic pull of the beautiful game, especially among the youth. Veteran leaders Jatin Chakraborty and Kshiti Goswami of the Revolutionary Socialist Party have had long associations with the three major football clubs of the Kolkata maidan—Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting. Under the Trinamool Congress, however, patronage of the game and exploitation of its mass appeal have reached another proportion.