Chants of ‘Barca, Barca’ were heard loud and clear from the stands of Saltlake Stadium on the eve of Indian Super League kick-off as former Barcelona players stole the show in an exhibition game in Kolkata Friday.
The scoreline may have read a lopsided 6-0 in favour of Barcelona in a ‘Clash of the Legends’ against Mohun Bagan veterans but it was the spirit of the beautiful game that won the hearts of about 25,000 football fans.
The scoreline would have made a team dejected on any given day but such was the occasion that the players were seen hugging each other and exchanging pleasantries after the match.
There were also Bollywood and local Bengali numbers that enthralled the crowd at the break who were seen dancing and waving at the former players, paying little heed to the flashing scoreline.
On the field, it was former Argentina forward Javier Saviola who drew the first blood on the same field where his 2006 World Cup teammate and city heartthrob Lionel Messi dazzled in a friendly fixture against Venezuela seven years ago.
Before the Mohun Bagan veterans could settle down, the 2004 Olympic gold medallist fired in from a midfield ball in the seventh minute in a goal that opened the floodgates for the visitors.
Having witnessed Messi’s moves at the same ground, the Kolkata football-mad crowd now started chanting ‘Saviola, Saviola’, a popular figure during his playing days in early 2000’s.
Saviola went off for a while but only to return in the second half and showed his subtle moves.
Having 28 players on their list, Mohun Bagan had three goalkeepers under the bar — starting with Sandip Nandy, then Kalyan Choubey and finally Hemanta Dora — but there was no respite.
Roger Garcia, who donned the Barcelona jersey between 1995-1999 featuring in 78 games, struck from the edge of the box with a deft left-footed to double the lead in the 29th minute.
Pedro Lopez Landi (43rd) made it 3-0 before the break before Jari Litmanen’s brace including one from the spot (63rd, 87th) made it a one-way traffic.
A familiar face Jofre Mateu who donned ATK jersey in the inaugural ISL season sealed the issue in the 90+2nd minute.
Mohun Bagan had their moment too when Kalyan Choubey made a brilliant save thwarting Edmilson’s goal in the second-half.
The Mariners fielded a big squad with the likes of Ashim Biswas, Alok Das who wore the captain’s armband, Basudev Mondal, Anik Ghosh, Prasanta Chakraborty, Basudev Mondal, Sasthi Duley, Dipendu Biswas, Syed Rahim Nabi, Habibur Rahman and Amit Ghosh among others.
As the giant floodlights dimmed with the Barcelona former stars bid an emotional goodbye to the football-loving crowd of the city.
However, there was one signage that was flashing bright — Let’s Football Kolkata, reminding that the actual action begins Saturday when home team ATK host Kerala Blasters FC in ISL season five kick-off.