To Be An Ultra: Story Of The Bangal Brigade
In a country which is obsessed with cricket like India, it is hard to imagine football taking precedence for a considerable number of people. However, if you have been to a particular pocket of the country known as West Bengal, you would be well aware of the impact football has on the people here.
There are 3 major clubs in this part of India- East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan FC. The first two boast of an incredibly large fan base which is spread not only in the state but also in various regions all across India and even in the world, while the last one has a relatively lesser number of followers as compared to the other two.
East Bengal and Mohun Bagan have been rivals for nearly a century now, and have produced some of the greatest players and the most memorable games in the history of Indian football. While East Bengal have been successful in both the domestic and international circuit, Mohun Bagan have played a key role in the fight for independence and have won a massive number of local and national trophies.
The football crazy fans of both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan boast a large number of fans would gladly do almost anything to see his/her team humble their eternal nemesis. There are stories of how an East Bengal fan buried his son and came to see a key league match right after the burial; to that of a Mohun Bagan fan who committed suicide after seeing his team getting humiliated 5-0 in the 1975 IFA Shield.
With the rise of the smartphones and internet, fans in the nation have got access to see various European and international games. As such, fans in Indian galleries have been bringing various European and South American feel, which includes chants, posters and banners. The likes of West Block Blues, Mariners Base Camp, East Bengal The Real Power etc. have made a name for themselves, but still, have a lot of work to do to match the madness and fanaticism that the East Bengal Ultras bring in.
A treat to the eyes no matter where they go, the East Bengal Ultras have been in existence since December 2013 when they first attended an away game at the Sree Kanteerava stadium in Bengaluru. Inspired by the Ultras of Napoli, St. Etienne and from the 70,000 odd people who lit up paper torches in the Yuba Bharati Stadium after East Bengal beat PAS Club from Iran in 1970, gradually the group grew and is now one of the biggest footballing communities in the country. They have made it a point to travel with the squad wherever they go, be it Mumbai, Goa, Kerala or Bengaluru. Even the team members consider the Ultras to be their 12thman, as their vociferous support presents a massive challenge to any away team playing against the Red and Gold Brigade.
Since their inception, the East Bengal Ultras have been extremely innovative with regards to their chants, posters, and banners. The boys from Bengal are also known for their two-pole flags, hoisting 3D Tifos, pyro techniques, and corteos. Armed with a sunglass, balaclava and their historic Red and Gold jersey, a typical Ultra makes sure his face his hidden but his voice is heard.
Recognized by major footballing website Copa90.com as the second best Ultras group in Asia, they have also been featured by Ultras-Tifo forum, which is the world’s largest Ultras community. Football Fans Asia have been making a documentary on them. Recently Tobias Enkel, the German photographer came down to cover them in the derby at Siliguri. A die hard Borussia Dortmund fan, Tobias was surprised to see the rich footballing culture in a part of the world which is not really known for the sport. Led by a passionate core whose families have been supporting the club for generations, the Ultras are here to stay and make a huge difference in terms of raising the quality of the fandom, both on and off the field.
After catching the eye on several instances over the past couple of seasons, most notably in the Bengal Derby, against Bhawanipore FC and against Bengaluru, the Ultras, or the “Bangal Brigade” as they call themselves, plan on raising their game if their team wins the I-League this season.
With a poor string of results affecting their beloved club's chances of winning the I-League just before the international break, the Ultras are pledged to come out all guns blazing when these two eternal rivals meet at the Kanchenjungha Stadium today. Flags, banners, chants, pyros will be all on a show, as these boys go about showing their undying love for the team they support. One hopes that the players can take inspiration from them and deliver on the pitch.
More power to you, East Bengal Ultras!