Kolkata derby is back. The return leg of I league game between Mohun Bagan & East Bengal is just a few hours away. After that dreadful 1st leg, the organisers are extremely cautious in the 2nd leg. Mohun Bagan, the organizing club for this leg have announced, multiple times, about its intents to supervise the spectators and have a tight security such that no violence arises in during the match.
The whole issue brings back a few important questions about the infrastructure and security system of the VIVEKANANDA YUBABHARATI KRIRANGAN.
The preventive measures
First let’s have a look on the preventive measures taken to safeguard the players and officials. As per the official website of Mohun Bagan, the following are not allowed inside the stadium on the match day – Glass bottles, water bottles, newspapers, sticks, fire crackers, coconut / mango, knives, any kind of beverage, blades, bags, umbrellas. All are requested to enter the stadium before one hour of the scheduled kick off. The ticket prices are also remarkably high this time. The minimum ticket price is 200 INR which I believe is the most expensive for a Kolkata Derby till date. Apart from that, thirty thousand less tickets will be issued from its normal intake to control the crowd properly. The police has also been requested to look towards the crowd instead of match. There will be CCTV to identify any kind of incident, which can make the mob unruly. Even the club officials has appealed to the crowd to maintain discipline and not to repeat the horrendous incidents of the past like the infamous 16th August 1980 or 9th December’2012. The steps are good and welcomed by all the parties. But implementing all these things will be not so easy.
The overall area of VIVEKANANDA YUBABHARATI KRIRANGAN is huge. It is almost 300 square meters. It is a multipurpose stadium which various entry points which are exposed. So these gates remain open and become the security loopholes during match day. On matchdays these gates need to be monitored strictly otherwise anybody can get into the stadium with any of the banned objects. The fans usually come with large groups, equipped with club flags and banners. They sometime carry small flags mounted on sticks and posters. These things are seemingly harmless but can be very dangerous during tensed situations. As per my personal experience, one can always find a brickbat or newspaper inside the stadium. As the concrete galleries are is too dusty to sit, people usually use a piece of newspaper or a brickbat to seat. Strangely, one can always find those things inside the stadium. I have never seen anyone carrying a bundle of bricks or wood while entering the stadium to watch the match. May be the slow and continuous renovation work and various other events are accountable for those undesirable objects. These things shall be removed immediately to secure a safe match conditions.
Is the high ticket price justified?
The ticket price is really high this time. Do the conditions of VIVEKANANDA YUBABHARATI KRIRANGAN justify this kind of price hike? The seating arrangements and basic amenities available at the stadium are not at par with any modern age stadiums. It was given a makeover during the FIFA international friendly between Argentina vs Venezuela, but that time also there were no chairs available at gallery expect the VIP gallery portion. People paid 2000 INR and sat on the concrete steps only to witness Lionel Messi and co. in front of their eyes. As per the message from Mohun Bagan, there will be food stalls and water pouches for fans inside the stadium. But unofficially tea vendors, hawkers are always available inside the stadium. So this is nothing new. The floodlight is still not ready. And the view from the top / middle / bottom tier is not close enough as there is a running track in between the pitch and the gallery. It does not give you a close view like European stadiums do. Though after the last derby incident it seems to be good for footballers and match officials that they are not so close to fans! Electronic score board or LCDs are also not available right now. And moreover is it safe for fans? The evacuation routes are questionable. Considering all the factors right now in the stadium, the price hike doesn’t seem to be justified. The stadium needs to be renovated with washrooms, LCDs and chairs. To stop hooliganism it needs to be equipped with modern day security system like CCTV, metal detectors, trained security personnel. Other basic facilities like foods, drinking water, soft drinks or tea stall can be installed at the stadium. It is not all about tight security for one particular match. The tight security needs to be implemented for each & every match. The problem is it is owned and maintained by West Bengal State Government instead of IFA, the state governing body of football in Bengal. So there will be marriage receptions, trade fairs, various business and political meets and football will continued to be neglected. It was declared that the renovation work of floodlight would be over by this time but still it is not ready. The condition of the astro turf has become poor. When will these issues be taken care of?
Message for fans
The brick which came from the crowd was thrown by a spectator, like you and me. Kolkata football fans surely had sent an ugly message to the other part of the country. The incident made me dejected. Now it is high time to realize that it is not all about abusing and hurting each other’s sentiments. A club needs fans’ support when it is in bad situations. It’s all about supporting. A player or a coach is equally committed to the club and to the match that needs to be understood by the supports. Even after a single fail or a bad game, players get abuse and harassment from fans. Supporters are the strength of a club. We can make our clubs stronger by watching and enjoying it properly.