Kolkata: Mohun Bagan are set for an I-League debut at their home ground when they face Indian Arrows on Friday as top-tier football returns to Kolkata Maidan after ages.
This is the first time an I-League match will be held at the Kolkata Maidan and the Mohun Bagan ground, which had witnessed an average attendance of 20,000 in their Calcutta Football League matches this year, is all set to make history.
At the same time, the ground had seen some unruly crowd behaviour affecting the local league matches and the onus will be on the Mariners' officials to ensure a safe playing environment for a top-tier game.
"It will be a proud occasion when we host the first-ever I-League game at our ground. We believe there won't be any glitch whatsoever and we can stage the game successfully without any hassles whatsoever," the club's finance secretary Debashish Dutta said.
Talking about the match, the spotlight will be on Nongdamba Naorem, the 17-year-old lad from the All India Football Federation's developmental side.
Currently on loan to the Arrows from Minerva Punjab FC, the Manipuri midfielder has announced his arrival with a 'Messi-like' strike in their 3-0 win over Shillong Lajong in their last round match.
Naorem's goal is already being labelled as the goal of the season by fans and pundits alike as the Arrows' No 16 ran past the entire Shillong backline before slotting the ball home.
"Of course, you feel proud if you hear your name alongside Messi. It's such an honour for me that this goal is compared with the kind that Messi scores," Naorem, who also played for India in the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in October, said.
The Arrows will take a big boost from the goal as they would look to challenge the Mohun Bagan defence.
"I never really thought I could score such a goal. It has really boosted my self-belief and confidence and our team is also far more confident now," he said ahead of the match.
On the other hand, Mohun Bagan will be bolstered by a strong home support and they will hope to return to winning ways after dropping points in their last two outings — against Shillong Lajong and Neroca FC.
As a result, Mohun Bagan have slipped to fifth place with nine points, three clear of Arrows after five matches each.
A win, however, will take Mohun Bagan to top three, behind Minerva and arch-rivals East Bengal who climbed to the pole position after their win against Gokulam Kerala on Wednesday.
Mohun Bagan will also get a boost with the return of their defender Eze Kingsley who faced suspension against Neroca.
It remains to be seen whether their Haitian playmaker Sony Norde makes the playing eleven as he seemed to have aggravated his knee injury after being given a start against Neroca but only to be replaced in the 83rd minute.
Mohun Bagan's last win had come against Churchill Brothers, a 5-0 rout at the Barasat artificial turf on 10 December.
But several of their players got injured due to the ground conditions as Japanese Yuta Kinowaki is already out of action, while Norde has been struggling to return to full fitness.
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Updated Date: Dec 29, 2017 11:47:15 IST