Historic Kolkata football rivalry makes a splash down under in Sydney

Many ex-Indian football team captains and stalwarts praised the initiative to start the IFA Shield franchise in Australia.

The Indian Fans’ Alliance Shield (IFA) Australia, created by the Indian Football Association, organised a football tournament as part of the ‘Vande Bharat’ program to celebrate the 75th ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ (Celebrations of 75 years of Indian Independence) in Sydney over the weekend (26th November 2022).

What was unique about this tournament was that two Kolkata football clubs, ‘Mohun Bagan’ and ‘East Bengal’, well known for their legendary rivalry, were represented by their fans from the Indian Bengali diaspora in Sydney.

The teams were wearing original jerseys provided by the clubs themselves with the euphoria of ‘bangal-ghoti’ or ‘illish-chingri’ rivalry and the fervour of East Bengal – Mohun Bagan derby, which first internationally started in the UK in 2018, making a splash down under. The local football club ‘Bongodyut’ also took part in the contest.

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Mohun Bagan won the contest in a tie-breaker but ultimately the spirit of ‘saab khelar sera Bangalir tumi football” won. The excitement and fun were palpable at the tournament hosted at Granville Centre in Sydney.

WATCH VIDEO: Organisers of the tournament, Rohan Choudhury, Avi Mitra, Rajorshi Datta, Arpan Majumder and Debdeep Panigrahi speak with The Australia Today’s Editor Pallavi Jain

Shadow Minister for Sports and Youth in NSW, Julia Finn, Parramatta Mayor Donna Davis, Cumberland Council Deputy Mayor Suman Saha and Strathfield Councillor Raj Datta soaked in all the fun as they attended the tournament.

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The annual Indian Fans’ Alliance Shield UK (IFA Shield UK) instituted by Heritage Bengal Global, a non-profit organisation of the Bengali community in Britain, in its 5th edition of the tournament, promoted the franchise to make it a global event, spread over three continents.

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After Atlanta-USA in last September, Indian Fans’ Alliance Shield (IFA Shield) reached the shores of Sydney harbour in Australia and was organised by “Bengali Mane FOOTBALL (AUS)”, a group of Kolkata Bengalis in the land of Blue Mountains to relive the traditional spirit of ‘Bengali football’.

Many ex-Indian football team captains and stalwarts of yesteryears namely Satyajit Chatterjee, Anirban Dutta ( IFA secretory), Shyam Thapa, Debjit Ghosh , Dipbendu Biswas and many more have praised this initiative to start the IFA Shield franchise in Australia.

Mohun Bagan Club’s Hon. Secretary Debasish Datta donated 50 green-maroon jerseys for this tournament and similar numbers of red–gold from the rival East Bengal. Apart from the two fans teams of EB and MB and the first Australian Bengali football club Bongodyut, kids, women and senior members of the Indian diaspora also participated in the tournament.

Indian Football Association secretary, Anirban Dutta, congratulated the organisers for keeping alive the sentiments and tradition of Kolkata and Bengal’s heritage of football apart from ‘maach-bhat’ in down under and emphasised that through this event, the millennials and the younger generations in Australia would get the flavour of ‘banglar football er oitijjyo’ (the heritage of Bengal’s football).

From the organisers, Dr Rohan Choudhury also emphasised that next year IFA Shield Australia would be a bigger event with more fans’ teams participating and lauded the organising members, Avi Mitra, Rajorshi Datta, Abhi Sen, Arpan Majumder, Arunava Pal and Debdeep Panigrahi for putting in hard toil to make the event a grand success.