Kolkata: I-League champions Mohun Bagan club's financial secretary Debasish Dutta today took a swipe at Indian Football Association (IFA) during the national club's felicttaion organised by the parent body.
Ironical it may sound but the top Mohun Bagan official said the team was "deeply hurt" as none from the IFA officials had turned up to receive them at the airport, even as they got a rousing welcome from thousands of fans.
But before it could embarrass the IFA in their ceremony, Dutta was quick to add that the regret was now gone as they're overwhelmed by a grand felicitation given at a five-star hotel this evening.
It was a sea of green and maroon as Mohun Bagan returned to a hero's welcome on June 1, a day after winning the I-League with a 1-1 draw against Bengaluru FC. "I was looking for someone among the crowd but was deeply hurt by not seeing (IFA secretary) Utpal Ganguli. When a champion badminton or tennis team returns, we are used to seeing them being welcomed by their respective state associations but nobody had come to receive us," Dutta said on the dais which had the IFA official.
More than a month after they won the coveted title, IFA organised the felicitation today and the team was presented a trophy and mementos with sports minister (in-charge) Arup Biswas in attendance.
Captain Shilton Paul and coach Sanjoy Sen along with their teammates and support staff were given the mementos in the ceremony, even as the team's foreign recruits were conspicuous by their absence. "Now the regret is gone... We're overwhelmed by grand felicitation," Dutta added.
The big two city clubs -- Mohun Bagan and East Bengal -- may have been blamed for "doing little" for the development of football. Dutta said the onus not only lies with the two clubs but everyone has to come forward and work for the cause.
"Not only the clubs but the state government and IFA must come forward and work together," Dutta said. Coach Sen said the challenge now has become tougher for them to retain their supremacy.
"Having reached the top, we have a bigger challenge now but the boys are looking forward to the next season," he said announcing that they would start their pre-season training for the next edition on July 16.
Terming this a "proud moment" senior AIFF vice-president Subrata Dutta said he had been subject to criticism in all the meetings in Delhi because of Bengal teams' below-par show.
"However I'm looking forward to our next executive committee meeting as everyone would now congratulate me. It's a proud moment for all Bengalis." The passion for football that is seen in Bengal is unparalleled, he added.
"When Mohun Bagan won the I-League it was like a festival here, something that's never seen in Goa. The passion makes Bengal different," Dutta said. Incidentally, there was no cash award for the triumphant Mohun Bagan who won their fourth national championship, and first since 2002 when it was called NFL.
Surprising it may sound, the state government is also yet to felicitate the I-League victors. The West Bengal government had in the past given grand felcitations to franchise-based tournament winners -- Atletico de Kolkata (football) and Kolkata Knight Riders (cricket).