Happy New Year everyone!
The new year promises much hope and joy, something we’re looking to provide to you with our January edition. The 90 Minutes team worked nights even during holiday season, (although we did party all night on the 31st) to make sure you started your year with 90 Minutes with a smile.
While December saw some fantastic football action in India and across Europe, there were two incidents of fan violence that brought extreme disappointment, and they came on the same day, at two different derbies – Kolkata and Manchester.
Kolkata was buzzing with excitement on the day of the derby fixture between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, with several foreigners (most of them Englishmen who were in town for the cricket) also in attendance to soak in the atmosphere of what is often called the world’s biggest football derby.
While most of the football in the first half was cagey and scrappy, which is often the case on such occasions, Harmanjot Khabra lit up the scene with a superb header to give East Bengal the lead. Football was to take a backseat thereafter, though, as first Odafa gestured aggressively at the referee only to get sent off, and then spectators at the ground showed why the meaning of ‘passion’ is often misunderstood by Kolkata football fans.
In the midst of all of that, it was one of India’s best footballers in the last few years – Syed Rahim Nabi – who got hit by a stone thrown from the stands (Incidentally, the stone was part of the stands!) and fractured his jaw. Blood, chaos, ambulances, and subsequent violence followed, and Mohun Bagan refused to come out for the second half, citing ‘law and order’ reasons.
There’s been enough controversy about the incident since, but the AIFF took the matter to another level altogether by announcing that Bagan would be banned for the remainder of the season plus another two league seasons. While most would agree that the club did deserve a punishment for refusing to play, the eventual punishment meted out was rather impractical and over the top.
With the I-League struggling anyway, banishing one of the top teams in the country for two and a half years from the competition would only do harm to the game in India. Would a large fine and points deduction have been enough punishment? Could the AIFF have asked Bagan to play the rest of their home games this season behind closed doors? Perhaps.
We have the man in the middle of it all, Syed Rahim Nabi, speaking to us in a lengthy interview this issue, as he discusses his feelings post the incident and the ban.
The cover story though, is all about Man United, which should please all Red Devils out there. United have been strangely cavalier in the league this season, scoring for fun but leaking goals at the back too. Abhisar Gupta takes a closer look at their performances and tries to figure out whether a different Man United can yield the same results this season. It’s a fascinating read.
There’s a lot more in there as usual, including a statistical look at the best teams and players in Europe over the last 18 months. Happy reading everyone, hope you enjoy!