Kolkata: India's biggest football draw -- clash between bitter foes Mohun Bagan and East Bengal --was on Wednesday called off in Kolkata after a no-show from the former team in the Calcutta Football League Premier Division.
East Bengal had turned up for the match at the Kalyani Municipal Stadium but Mohun Bagan stood firm on their decision as match referee Pranjan Banerjee waited for 30 minutes before calling it off, and declaring the red-and-gold winners.
The strange situation was a result of tussle between Mohun Bagan and the Indian Football Association, the governing body of the sport in Bengal, as both parties refused to budge.
Mohun Bagan had demanded a postponement because of "lack of practice" at the venue which is about 60kms from the city but IFA stuck to its original schedule.
With the walk-over, the red-and-gold brigade took an unassailable 24 points at the top of the 11-team table to be declared winners of the league for a record seventh successive time. Mohun Bagan remained on 16 points from eight matches.
The last time such an instance happened was in 1985, when the same team Mohun Bagan did not turn up.
It was a big disappointment for for former footballers and fans who waited anxiously for the season's first derby.
Former India captain Chuni Goswami, who spent his entire career at the Mariners, said the situation could have been avoided.
"Mohun Bagan faced many tough situations in the past but they always overcame them by playing and not staying away from it. I don't know why they took such a stand. The game should have been held and players must be allowed to play even under unavoidable circumstances," he said.
Echoing Goswami's sentiment, former India forward Dipendu Biswas said: "Mohun Bagan's refusal to play is very sad and disappointing. This is one of the worst decisions ever taken in Indian football.
"I wonder whether such a decision has been taken by a few officials or keeping in mind the sentiment of Mohun Bagan supporters. As a football player and a lover of the game, we always wait for the derby. It is a huge loss for Indian football," he said.
Terming it a sad day for Indian football, a Mohun Bagan fan said: "We have been robbed of watching the derby. Blame game will start but no one will spare a thought for us."
Strange it may sound, but Mohun Bagan were not happy with the 2000 tickets allotted to them and chose not to practice at the venue.
calling this a bad advertisment for Indian football, East Bengal captain Arnab Mondal said: "We were mentally ready to play and not bothered by what happens outside the pitch.
"You don't want to be crowned champions like this. A player knows that each point in any league has to be earned. I can't speak for Mohun Bagan players but as a footballer, I feel bad about this," the India central defender summed up.