A one of a kind food festival aligned with the age-old rivalry of East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan i.e. the quintessential battle between the 'Bangals' (originally from eastern part of undivided Bengal, now Bangladesh) and the Ghotis (originally from West Bengal). Following the enormous success of last year’s IFA (India Fans Association) Shield UK, Bengal Heritage Foundation and London Sharad Utsav recreated the same magic again this year on Sunday 28 July but in a larger scale. Last year’s success triggered the football love in a much wider scale and the response from Bengalis settled in the UK was massive this year.
There were close to 72 players this year and divided between 3 East Bengal and 3 Mohun Bagan teams. The teams were named after legendary players to pay tribute to their contributions to the football giants – Dhiren De, Goju Bose, Balaidas Chatterjee, JC Guha, Poltu das, Swapan Bal. Both the team players were seen wearing official jerseys of their teams presented by Quess East Bengal and Mohun Bagan.
The event received accreditation from the Football Association (FA) community who also supplied official referees for the tournament and was supported by NHS for healthy living initiative. The match fixtures were planned in such a way that the East Bengal teams will only play against another Mohun Bagan team in a round robin manner to decide on the finalists. The tremendous success and responses received from last year has helped in drawing support from Vodafone, Snehodiya Kolkata for Senior Citizens living, Air India and the tournament was shown live by Radio Bangla net.
Former Nigerian football player and legendary striker known for his contributions in the Indian leagues Chima Okorie was the chief guest for the tournament. He was present to witness the Ghoti-Bangal football battle cry and to conduct a kid’s football workshop. This was first of its kind here in London where the Gen next kids were given a football workshop by Chima, while most of their fathers were busy on the other side of the Slough Town Football Park playing the tournament.
The enthusiastic kids age ranged anywhere between 3-15 were taught skills like passing the ball, control, co-ordination and striking to the net. Unaware of the Ghoti-Bangal rivalries, these kids were busy in learning new football tactics with dreams of becoming the next Beckham or Rooney of the nation. At the end of the workshop, all the participating kids were presented a signed certificate from Chima and a football. “Today’s kids are the future of football, the type of trainings and discipline they will be taught at this age will help them to shape their characters and hence make them better sports person” said Chima after the workshop. He also added that practice in sports has no end, one needs to keep practicing with discipline in order to attain perfection.
“Being a huge East Bengal fan since my childhood, I always miss being at the Yuva Bharathi Krirangan whenever there is a big match between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. When I heard about this, I couldn’t resist myself and jumped to this opportunity to be a part of organising this. IFA shield UK has the potential to put Indian football’s footprints in the global map,” said Bhaskar Bhattacharya, Assistant manager of Hyatt Regency London and committee member of Bengal Heritage Foundation who has major contribution in shaping up this tournament along with Anirban Mukhopadhay, President of London Sharad Utsav, Sourav Niyogi – President of Bengal Heritage Foundation and Koushik Chatterjee, committee member of Bengal Heritage Foundation.
East Bengal won of this year’s IFA Shield UK 2019 defeating Mohun Bagan at the final match by 2-1. The trophy was lifted by the winning team and was presented by Chima Okorie and Debashis Golder, Regional Head, Air India. Chima was present in this tournament for the second consecutive year and he was delighted the way the Bengali diaspora here in the UK has come together in a larger scale to not only keep the spirit of football in every Bengali’s heart alive but also to keep the age-old rivalry between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan rejuvenated away from homeland. “Fitness is key for any sports and fitness comes from discipline in life, hence this sort of initiatives will trigger the urge to stay fit within the diaspora, as people look forward to next year’s tournament,” said Chima Okorie.