Beating the blues: Black and white
Top clubs and sports bodies in Kolkata are badly hit by demonetisation to a great extent, though the lack of running events and shades of professionalism have largely insulated them from any big bang aftershock.
However, city soccer giants Mohammedan Sporting conceded that they have landed in a crisis following the Narendra Modi-led Central government’s November 8 decision to spike Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes from the market.
Mohammedan Sporting Club, founded in 1891 at Kolkata, is one of the oldest and leading football clubs in India. The club currently plays in the I-League 2nd Division and premier division of Calcutta Football League(CFL). Mohammedan Sporting is one of the most popular football clubs in India with a support base through all over of the country.
Mohammedan was the first Indian Club to win CFL in 1934 and continued their run till 1938 season. Before Independence, numerous triumph against British teams earned the club huge support.
Mohammedan Sporting Club became the entity against British oppression and the support continued even after Independence.
The club also became the first Indian club to win Durand Cup in 1940. After Independence, the club also became the first Indian club to win on foreign soil by lifting Aga Khan Gold Cup in 1960. The club enjoys rivalries with Mohun Bagan and East Bengal and three of these clubs of Kolkata is tagged as ‘Big Three Club’.
“We are facing a huge crisis. Our players are not getting their food at the club tent on time and there are also problems while buying regular stuff like medicines,” Sultan Ahmed, president of the 125-year-old club, said. Ahmed, also a frontline Trinamool Congress leader, said East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, the other leading football clubs in the city, were better placed.
”They (East Bengal and Mohun Bagan) won’t come out in the open even if they have a problem. And they have big sponsors who back them. We run the club from our own pocket,” Ahmed said. Both the red and gold as also the green and maroon outfits said it has been relatively smooth sailing for them.
East Bengal attributed the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) club licensing criteria as the principal factor for their comfort level. “Due to club licensing, all our accounts are up to date and audited. We have to show that to AIFF from time to time. We have to make payments time to time and mostly transact online. So cheque transactions are 90 percent,” an East Bengal official said.
But then payment of the ground staff has become a problem following the government initiative. “Yes, at the ground level, we are facing some problem of paying our ground staff on time. But now that cash withdrawal limits have been increased, we hope the problem will be resolved soon,” the official added.
Mohun Bagan officials seemed unfazed.
“We have faced no problems at all. All payments are either account transfers or in cheques. It has been a smooth business so far for Mohun Bagan club,” the club’s finance secretary Debashish Dutta said.
Utpal Ganguli, the secretary of the state’s parent football body, the Indian Football Association (IFA), on the other hand, thanked his stars saying the association would have been in choppy waters had any tournament been on. “We are fortunate that no tournaments are running at this time of the year.
So the IFA has not faced any problem. But if there was a tournament running, say the CFL (Calcutta Football League), we would have been staring at a big problem. There is no denying that,” Ganguli said.
Coming to cricket, the Vidarbha Ranji team — currently playing here at Eden Gardens against Maharashtra in a Group B encounter, have been hit by a cash problem.
They are learnt to have approached the game’s ruling body in the state — the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) for help. The CAB was also looking at contingency measures to help the Bengal team, currently playing Tamil Nadu in Rajkot under the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) new neutral venue rule for Ranji Trophy matches.
“Rather than lamenting, the idea is to get things sorted and see to it that day-to-day affairs are not stalled,” CAB joint secretary Avishek Dalmiya added. “Obviously, everybody is facing a problem.
But we are looking at issues in a case-by-case manner and trying to solve them in the best way possible. I am meeting the president (Sourav Ganguly) and we will be discussing on how the players (Bengal Ranji team) can be paid their daily allowances smoothly.
We will be looking at options like providing extra debit cards if the need be. Overall, we haven’t been largely impacted as most of our payments were made before the announcement. Hence we are taking it case-by-case,” he added.
The Bengal Tennis Association (BTA), which conducted two Asian Tour tournaments after the two high-value notes were scrapped, said some payments have been deferred. But with players being paid the prize money mostly in the now defunct Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, the BTA has averted a major headache. “We paid cash to the winners. Prize money is always paid in cash.
They have until December 30 to exchange them so there is no problem,” BTA president Hironmoy Chatterjee said.
“As far as other tournament payments are concerned, some are on hold. We will slowly clear them out with cheques, but I guess that’s the case everywhere in the country. The Prime Minister has taken a decision and we need to abide by it,” Chatterjee, now also the secretary general of All India Tennis Association added.