It does not get bigger than the biggest game in Indian football also being a dream final, but that is exactly what the grand finale of the 132nd IndianOil Durand Cup has shaped up to be. Mohun Bagan Super Giant (MBSG) and Emami East Bengal (EEB) go head to head on Sunday, September 03, 2023, at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) in Kolkata, to earn the right to lay their hands on the three iconic and glittering Durand trophies and be crowned champions. The game kicks-off at 4.00pm Indian Standard Time (IST).
The first clash between the two local teams, in the group stages of this very edition, resulted in a favourable result for EEB as Nandhakumar Sekar’s strike made the difference. That they have managed to make their way into the final, tells us how strong they have been throughout the tournament, that needle clash notwithstanding.
EEB has had the so called “easier path” into Sunday’s blockbuster, with MBSG having to overcome the likes of Mumbai City and FC Goa in the knockouts, but Gokulam Kerala and a resurgent NorthEast United, are no way “easy games” today in Indian football for any team.
That tells us that both teams are in good form and Carles Cuadrat, the EEB head coach was certainly brimming with clarity and confidence in the pre-match presser saying, “After the draw with Bangladesh Army team, we talked among the team. Improved in our sessions. Then we beat Mohun Bagan. Won the Derby. Then match by match we improved and now we are in the final. It’s just the beginning of the process and I am happy. There are a lot of new players in the team and among foreigners I have only worked with Cleiton (Silva) in the past. So it’s just the beginning of the process. It’s really humid weather but that is for both the teams and we are ready to play the game. Last time, when East Bengal beat Mohun Bagan in consecutive two matches was in 2016. So it’s been a long time. So this time we want to give our best and try to win the trophy.”
Juan Ferrando, the MBSG gaffer, not one to betray much emotions ever had this to say, “I am happy with our performance till now. We have played some good teams like Mumbai and FC Goa. And we are going to play another good team in the final. So it will be great if we can win the trophy. We are in the preseason and I am happy with how we are progressing. For me the past is the past. Every match is different. Honestly in the last Derby I was more focused with the AFC Cup match but now I am happy that my players have passed the group stage. And tomorrow we have an opportunity to play against a good team. It’s a good target and a good challenge for us. We will try to win the trophy.”
Anywhere in between 50-60 thousand fans are expected to pack the VYBK on Sunday and with both coaches expressing trophy ambitions, both a psychological and tactical battle is on the cards.
Spanish deep defender Hector Yuste would be a key part of that tactical battle at the heart of the MBSG defence and he appeared very eager to get out there, having missed the first derby. “I don’t mind. I just love playing football. I’ll even play keeper,” he quipped on being asked whether he would prefer a three-man or four-man defence in the final.
Hector further added, “I arrived on Sunday morning. And I played. So I am happy to qualify for the next round in the AFC Cup. Yes for sure I heard about the Derby. Many people told me. It’s going to be difficult because physically we are not 100 percent ready. But we have to enjoy that pressure. And we have to give everything in the final. We want to win and dedicate it to our fans.”
Also enamoured of the fan’s love was EEB’s Borja Herrera, a key player in the team’s great run in the tournament and crucial to Cuadrat’s plans on Sunday. “It was amazing to see the fans crying, in the rain,” he said in reverence when asked if he found the Kolkata derby different. On the final Borja said, “It’s is going to be a tough game tomorrow. Both teams will try to win. It is a final. That is most important. But we will give our best on the field and definitely try to win the trophy.”
It is certainly a final made in heaven, particularly for the fans in Kolkata and the state of West Bengal and as well for their millions of admirers all-across the country. It is also a cup final made in heaven for Indian football. It has the capability to showcase its true potential. May the best team be crowned champions.