Kolkata: COVID-19 pandemic might have tempered the fervour of Mohun Bagan’s traditional annual awards show but day-long virtual celebrations marked the auspicious occasion on Wednesday.
On any other July 29, Mohun Bagan’s Maidan tent would have been overcrowded with supporters of the club, now in its 131-year. But post-coronavirus instructions of avoiding large public gatherings not only halted Mohun Bagan’s I-League winning celebrations but also robbed its countless supporters of celebrating its most famous victory on the pitch.
Cricket great Palash Nandy, recipient of the prestigious Mohun Bagan Ratna, was presented with a memento and a cash award in the club premises while hockey stalwart Gurbux Singh, the other declared recipient, is presently in Gurgaon. Due to travel restrictions imposed due to COVID-19 pandemic, Gurbux couldn’t return to Kolkata to accept the honour physically.
Ashok Kumar, son of hockey royalty Dhyan Chand, former Bagan footballer Pranab Ganguly and former sprint champion and athletics coach Monoranjan Porel were conferred with the lifetime achievement award.
Spanish midfielder Joseba Beitia, a key figure in Mohun Bagan’s title-winning march in the I-league last season, was declared the best footballer of their senior men’s team while U-18 player Sajal Bag was named the best youth player.
West Bengal governing body Indian Football Association (IFA) secretary Joydeep Mukherjee was the recipient of the inaugural Best Administrator Award, named in memory of their former general secretary Anjan Mitra who died last year.
Mohun Bagan became the first club to win the IFA Shield, beating East Yorkshire Regiment on 29 July 1911, 2-1 in the final. The win stoked nationalistic sentiments within Indians and is regarded as a key moment in the country’s movement for independence from the British rule.
To commemorate the unparallel achievements of the barefooted ‘Immortal XI’, the club began its annual awards on the day, known as the Mohun Bagan Day, which has slowly transformed into a celebration of the history of Indian football.
Club president Swapan Sadhan ‘Tutu’ Basu delivered a keynote address to spark off the virtual celebrations, followed by garlanding of the bench used by the ‘Immortal XI’.
— Mohun Bagan (@Mohun_Bagan) July 29, 2020
The memorable day began with American Stock Exchange NASDAQ observing Mohun Bagan day, displaying the famous Green and Maroon colours of the club, on its billboard at Times Square in New York. NASDAQ displayed Mohun Bagan related contents throughout the day to celebrate the occasion.
World governing body FIFA also acknowledged Mohun Bagan as one of the ‘most passionately-supported clubs on the planet’.
These tweets and pictures have gone viral on social media and has become the source of unstinted pride for Bagan fans the world over, affectionately called Mariners after the club’s easily distinguishable boat and sail crest.
Talk shows with former stars and musical programmes featuring top musicians and film directors were also arranged to round off celebration of the momentous day, albeit virtually.
The Green and Maroons would be playing in the 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) after tying up with reigning champions ATK. The team would henceforth be called ATK Mohun Bagan.
ATK-MB bolstered their squad on Wednesday with the signing of India international defender Pritam Kotal for two more seasons.
🤩 When you make a billboard of skyscraping prestige & dazzling beauty at @TimesSquareNYC, you know you have become way more than just a club 👏
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) July 29, 2020