Once a great guy said, "Agar kisi cheez ko shiddat se chaho, to puri kayanat tumhe usse milane ki sajish rachti hai" . While you may not believe in Bollywood or fairy tales owing to the belief that these things don't exist, Monday may just prove to be an aberration in your cold realistic world. A world where Mohun Bagan had no right to still be in the shield race after losing three games in a row, losing multiple star players, and most important of all, losing their coach mid way through the season. It may seem simple, like a game on a football game, but ask any of those players if it was anywhere near being easy. Tough decisions, heart breaks, tears, broken records, broken hearts and what not, Monday was the culmination of that long dream that the Mariners dreamt back in September last year. The dream, the hope, the sense of entitlement of being the National Club of India is something that can only be felt. And Bagan did justice to all that with a performance worthy of a Netflix series finale itself.

The build up to Monday could not have been more intense. A blockbuster sell out show for the league. Recent noise on social media about Bagan's per match attendance being "low" other than the derbies went straight down the drain as a record 61,777 people came in and millions joined from throughout the world. Legacy can't be bought, there are clubs who fail to fill their 10,000 capacity stadiums even after tremendous success, and then there is Mohun Bagan whose fans have held this club close to our soul for decades, sheltering it from the bad times while celebrating the successful ones. And monday was the pinnacle of that.

Bagan needed an outright win to become the Champions of India, while a draw was enough for Mumbai. Habbas was back in the dugout which was a huge boost for the Bagan side. Senor Habbas in his lucky white shirt meant Bagan already had the luck factor on their side. Habbas picked the usual  team with Vishal in goal, Hector, Subhasish and Anwar Ali in the defense. Anirudh Thapa started the game along with Abhishek Suryavanshi and Joni Kauko in the middle of the park. Manvir and Liston started on the flanks while Dimi and Sadiku started up front.

From the kick off itself, Bagan were looking to attack. Anirudh Thapa was back to his Chennaiyin best as Habbas freed him from the number 6 role, giving him the freedom to play in a more attacking role. His signature late runs into the box meant Bagan always had an extra man in the box. And that mattered. And it was Thapa as well who created the first real chance of the game.

A smooth phase of play ensured Thapa received the ball out wide. In typical Thapa style he put in a cross from the right and it found the head of an on rushing Liston Colaco. But sadly it could only hit the post. A costly miss one can say. Mumbai heaved a sigh of relief. The game looked evenly poised for a while with attacks flourishing on both sides. And just when it looked like it would be nil all in the first half, the heaven gates opened.

Big games need big players. Champions League and Cristiano Ronaldo, World Cup and Leo Messi, etc. Big players step up when their teams need them the most. And so did one Goan boy. A boy who was bought at a steep price after a breakthrough season at Hyderabad. The boy is a man now. He has had the highest of the highs, winning the AIFF player of the year once, Mohun Bagan's player of the season once and also had the lowest of the low season last year. Liston Colaco received the ball out wide and in typical Liston fashion he cut inside, bewildered Bipin, opened up the angle and curled it in past a helpless Phurba in the Mumbai goal.

And lo!! The stadium erupted. Fireworks bursted, the players ran in joy. Sheer pandemonium throughout the stadium was felt even by those watching from different parts of the world. Liston Colaco had done it on the grandest stage in Indian football. And the timing could not have been better.

Mumbai were struck and they were wounded. But they are never out. Far from it. And they almost equalized in the first half as well. Chhangte and Diaz played a smooth give and go between them before Diaz put in a low cross for Chhangte. With the whole of the empty net to aim for Chhangte still missed from five yards out. The pressure of the occasion or the aura of the Bagan faithful? Maybe a bit of both. Bagan lead the game at half time.

45 minutes is all that stood between Bagan and Mumbai now. The breathing was getting difficult with every passing second now. The game became end to end in the second half. Mumbai tried to launch their arsenal of attacks via the silky feet of Noguera and Chhangte, but the defense stood in front of them like a rock. Bagan didn't budge either, utilizing every opportunity to score on the counter. To utilise this even more the gaffer brought on Tangri and Cummings in place of Kauko and Sadiku respectively. Removing Kauko so early was a bit baffling but it proved so vital in the end stages. Cummings was brought on to latch onto any long ball and try to go as deep as possible into the Mumbai half. But he did even better.

A long diagonal from Dimi found Cummings who had a man on him. He received the ball, performed a slight shoulder drop and in a single flow put his foot right through the ball. The ball ended in the back of the net, and the stadium erupted. The jubilation meant to bounds. The fans, the police, the players all gathered. The photographers couldn't wait to capture the moment as they flocked the players. Dimi passionately kissed the badge while Cummings was in la la land. All the other players joined in. The police struggled to handle the crowd. Pandemonium. Electric. This is what Mohun Bagan is all about. Trophies, stadiums, money didn't build us. These fans did. These supporters did. Generational is a word used as a freebie now a days. This is generational. This is Mohun Bagan.

But again, which film has ever been a super hit without a gut wrenching twist? Or shall we say twists? Bagan's Aussie defender Brendan Hamill was sent off was some bizzare reason. Add to that, the one player from Mumbai who had been threatening all game decided to score in the dying minutes. And that's not all. A grand total of 8 minutes were added as injury time.

So here's the scenario. Defend an one goal lead against of the best attacking teams in the league with 10 men, or lose the shield by a whisker, at home. Sounds tense? Well it wad more. Then added 8 minutes felt like 80, the adrenaline went through the roof. Hearts pounded faster than those countless locals that leave Howrah every day. Sweat, heat, thirst nothing mattered to the fans. All the beautiful songs in the world, from Arijit Singh to Kishore Kumar could not soothe the fans' ears. Only the sound of the final whistle could do it. 

Seconds, passed onto to become minutes. One, two, three became seven, eight and ten. Bagan players wasted no chance to slow down the tempo of the game. Aniruddh Thapa, who'd been brilliant all game didn't stop his running. Subhasish Bose still stood like a rock. Ashish Rai did his best to hold the ball. Dimi tried an audacious chip to kill the game. 

And the game was killed.  Vishal launched the ball into the night sky like a shooting star. A shooting star which fulfilled a million wishes. Bagan had won the league. Bagan had beaten Mumbai at for the first time in ISL history. A game of records. A game of passion. A game of glory and grit.

"THIS WIN IS FOR THE PEOPLE" is how a jubilant Dimi put it afterwards. Truly, if there was one ISL league shield win which demanded everything from both the players and the fans, it was this. Everyone gave it their all. Right through the season, from that demolition of Punjab, to the loss against the Blasters at home, bouncing back with back to back wins before being sucker punched by Chennaiyin at home.

In life, you may be down, but you are never out. Your life may not be a fairy tale or a Netflix series, but it still deserves a fairy tale ending. That's what football teaches us.

Football is life. Life is Mohun Bagan. Until the next triumph, until the next heart break, until the next jubilation, until the next time to fight together....thanks for being such awesome readers. Rejoice for now as we prepare for much bigger battles in the days to come.

Until next time, Joy Mohun Bagan!!

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