SWAGOTO BOSE HAD never been enthusiastic about visiting his in-laws; but for a few weeks recently, the idea grew particularly disagreeable to him. “However hard they try to control, I see a smirk on their face whenever they discuss football now,” he said when I met him early in January. Swagoto’s family and the family of his wife Sutanya are supporters on either side of India’s most fierce football rivalry—Mohun Bagan versus East Bengal.
“Let us understand—the fight between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal is much beyond the football field; it is a fight of identity between the Ghoti [people from West Bengal] and Bangal [people originally from Bangladesh],” said Supratim Bose, Swagoto’s father, who insisted that he’s fond of his daughter-in-law despite her fealty to the rival club.
The clubs’ pairing is without doubt the most dramatic in Indian football; but for a few weeks in December and January, it was put in jeopardy after the All India Football Federation announced a two-year ban on Mohun Bagan.