FEATURE : The Robin Singh of East BENGALuru

Sunday, 26 February 2017|DC
Nothing’s more satisfactory than a goal against a former club. Robin, with two of those at Bengaluru’s backyard, celebrated like a hero.

Saturday’s I-League clash between Bengaluru FC and East Bengal at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium wasn’t a game of 90 minutes plus injury time. What looked like a photoshopped image of East Bengal Ultras travelling in a chair car compartment from Kolkata to Bengaluru sparked war cries from both sides. The West Block Blues, BFC’s fan group, rubbished the picture for being the same one that EB fans had uploaded after the Kolkata derby. They wondered if there’s a chair car compartment for a 36-hour train journey between the two cities. And if that wasn’t enough, they rejoiced in the similarities between the Karnataka flag and red and yellow colours of the EB mast. The visiting fans understandably didn’t take it well, calling the WBB out in a pre-game social media tussle, where they were clearly on the back foot.

On the pitch though, and even in the stands, the EB ultras had the last laugh. As if the 79th minute-winner in the Jan 22 home clash wasn’t enough to prove a point, Robin Singh doubled the effort in a span of five minutes and avenged the snub from his former club. Wedson Anselme was comfortably let to score the opener for East Bengal in the 3-1 win. The Haitian’s opener showcases the BFC’s defence slide into mediocrity despite having the best names in the business – at least in India - in the form of Sandesh Jhingan and Juan Gonzalez. Yet, the criss-crossing and curling effort into the far post from the right would be a strike that the EB ultras will speak for years to come, starting from the time they make that return journey to the West Bengal capital in a chair car coach or otherwise.

To talk more about the match would do injustice to the entertainment that was provided off it. Mehtab Hossain will never be able to befriend Sunil Chhetri in his lifetime. He took out the Indian national team - and BFC - captain at the Barasat Stadium last month and kept those tackles coming in EB’s away fixture too. He then celebrated after the match in front of the home team dugout as if he had scored the two goals that Robin claimed credit for. He obviously wouldn’t mind the jeers, knowing his team had got the better of Hossain’s one-time pal Harmanjot Khabra, who left EB in pursuit of title glory at BFC.

It anyway appears Bengaluru will not lay their hands on the crown this time and Khabra, who hasn’t won the title with any team, will be cursing the timing of his switch to Bengaluru. Khabra was supposed to sign with Bengaluru for the 2016 season but he ended up captaining EB that time while suggesting he will move if EB don’t win the I-League.

From the looks of it, a three-way fight is on for the league spoils among East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Aizawl FC and Khabra, at least for the sake of his move, will hope that EB won’t win it this time around too. Not surprising considering that someone like the club secretary of East Bengal (Kalyan Majumdar) itself was banking on coach Trevor Morgan to fail.

A zero on Saturday was BFC’s attack. Youngster Daniel Lalhlimpuia missed a sitter in front of a wide goal which would have levelled the score while Udanta looked shy in front of a physical Ivan Bukenya. CK Vineeth finally has a goal, albeit consolation, to keep his starting position. But the only thing that will help BFC now is a foreign striker who can skittle past tall defenders and complete the moves that Udanta and Chhetri toil for. From the looks of it, there are on the verge of signing one and Bengaluru being Bengaluru the professional club, won’t even answer rumours about it. If a website is to be believed, one Marjan Jugovic will join the BFC ranks.

Robin, on the other hand, made his feelings for BFC clear. A day before the fixture, he said too much was being made out of his routine goal celebration after the goal last month against his BFC. But hey, come on, who is he kidding? He wanted to prove a point and he did so with two great central forward finishes. The first one was a well-directed header to a cross by Robert Lalthlammuana and then, he pushed a grounded ball from Christopher Payne, who was fed by Nikhil Poojary. On both occasions, the 26-year-old was unmarked. And on both occasions, he celebrated like a hero, not like Robin the sidekick. Who said Indian football isn’t exciting?

The constant banter between the fan groups, separated by a press box, was more entertaining than the game sometimes. Universal words were limited to f*** you, f*** Bengal and f*** BFC. Policemen and stadium security personnel asked both sides to shut the f*** up or get thrown out which obviously didn’t go well with the fans. More universal words were exchanged but one side stopped responding after Robin’s goal - on the field and off the pitch too.

Enough on Robin, let’s wait for Majumdar’s comments now. Only that can cap off the eventful fixture that was.