East Bengal's foray into the Indian Super League (ISL) will ensure that the spirit of Kolkata Derby will not be lost.
Early this year, arch-rivals Mohun Bagan and East Bengal faced off in what many considered to be the final Kolkata derby in a national league. I-League champions Mohun Bagan then confirmed their merger with ATK and thus announced their participation in the ISL as a new entity ATK Mohun Bagan.
But East Bengal looked like they would remain in the I-League and hence, there was no possibility of these two rivals battling each other in the top division. The only possibility for a derby was in the Calcutta Football League after ATK Mohun Bagan confirmed that they would continue to participate in the local football competition.
While all hope seemed to have been lost at one point, East Bengal have now more or less pulled off a spectacular late entry into the top-tier, going by the confirmation from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday.
The Chief Minister had said, "Mohun Bagan had joined ISL after an arrangement but East Bengal were trying for a very long time to play the ISL amidst the pandemic and that will finally happen now."
And that should mean that the contest and the legacy of the Kolkata derby are set to continue. The next edition of the 'Boro Match of Indian Football' will be in the ISL.
The glitz and glamour of the ISL will combine with the passion and legacy of one of the oldest derbies in the world. The fixture that gave fans countless unforgettable memories, one that evokes a feeling of nostalgia among the older generation who have been accustomed to watching the Kolkata giants battle it out in the National Football League (NFL) or the I-League, now gets a different a dimension added to it.
The ISL's version of the Kolkata derby will have all the passion and the noise of the fixture that India enjoys, simply because those aspects of the age-old rivalry cannot be stripped away. Moreover, ISL can further enhance the capabilities of marketing, promotion, coverage and the overall experience for fans be it at the stadium or in front of devices.
As per the latest Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) report, the ISL 2019-20 season recorded a 51 per cent jump in viewership compared to that of the previous period. With Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and the enticing prospect of Kolkata Derbies, ISL as a whole, is set for a rebrand.
And as Tarun Jhunjhunwala, the Chief Executive at Reliance, put, 'Indian football is set for a new beginning.'