January 18, 2020 4:07:24 am
Mohun Bagan’s merger with ATK FC marks the end of a 130-year-old sentiment. The biggest name in Indian football and the oldest club in Asia will cease to be a community club, ceding control to the RPSG Group. The Mohun Bagan Football Club (India) Private Limited will be represented by just two directors on the board of the new company.
The new deal will also make members of the Mohun Bagan Athletic Club nearly peripheral in football matters. The club’s tie-up with the UB group in 1998 was different, for Bagan and its title sponsors had equal stakes in the United Mohun Bagan Private Limited. This is a takeover. Then again, this was inevitable. As the Indian Super League (ISL) superseded the I-League, Bagan had to get into the top tier. East Bengal, too, will have to follow suit. Without the merger, the Mariners would have been left out. The club, of late, had been struggling to foot the wage bills. Paying an annual franchise fee of Rs 15 crore was beyond them. The Kolkata giants’ aversion to modernity for a long period eventually became their bugbear.
The ISL will give Bagan wider attention. Players will have the opportunity to be coached by some of the big names in European and Latin American football. Some players, though, will be temporarily unemployed, because the merged club cannot accommodate all the players from Bagan and ATK. But the ISL will give Bagan a chance to be part of the Asian elite, should they become the group-stage leaders and qualify for the AFC Champions League. The takeover will hurt traditional Bagan supporters, but the club is too dear to its fans to be rejected if it has an ATK prefix or suffix.
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