Five people were injured and around 60 were arrested when supporters of East Bengal Football Club clashed with the police outside the club gates in Kolkata on Wednesday.
Hundreds of football fans had gathered there to demand that East Bengal play the Indian Super League, but the club’s talks with the investors, a private cement company, have been deadlocked and ISL seems a distant dream.
Rival groups of fans had gathered there on Wednesday afternoon in huge numbers, breaking Covid protocol, and refused to budge when the police announced they must.
The police then baton-charged the crowd to disperse it. The five were injured during this time.
The incident has taken a political turn. The BJP claims the cement company had agreed to invest in the club at the Chief Minister’s request and had signed a memorandum of understanding. But the terms of the final deal were allegedly so harsh, they would turn the club into an extension of the company and officials and members would become outsiders.
East Bengal fans are divided on the issue. Some feel it is worth paying the price if it means the club can play the ISL. Others feel the club must retain its independent identity.
East Bengal Club celebrated its centenary in 2020 and is one of the biggest clubs in Indian football along with Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting.