(Image Credits: Jhulan Goswami's Social Media Handle)

The Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season is gearing up for its second Kolkata Derby, with Mohun Bagan Super Giant and East Bengal FC set to clash against each other at the Salt Lake Stadium in the City of Joy on March 10, Sunday at 8:30 PM.

Goswami represented India in 284 matches at the international stage in a two-decade-long playing career emerging as one of the all-time greats of the sport. Her tally of 355 wickets is the highest of all time in women's international cricket.

Post-hanging her boots as a player, Goswami joined the Mumbai Indians women's team as their Mentor and bowling coach and played a key role in helping them win the Women’s Premier League (WPL) title in the inaugural edition in 2023.

Growing up in West Bengal, Goswami used to play a lot of football as a kid. She has also spoken in the past about how she would have liked to be a footballer if she hadn't been a cricketer. The former pacer took a liking for East Bengal FC and is a passionate supporter of the Red & Gold Brigade, eager to see them succeed in the upcoming derby. She has frequented the stands often as a spectator and describes it as an unmatched experience.

Watch her speak here: https://we.tl/t-xeLHymm3C7 (Courtesy: FSDL)

Kolkata Derby is at the next level

“The rivalry between East Bengal FC and Mohun Bagan Super Giant is of a different class. If you have never been to the ground, you don’t know what kinds of things go on, and you can’t explain, it’s difficult. We talk about the derbies of other countries, but the Kolkata Derby is at the next level. It is one of the best derbies that I have experienced in my lifetime,” the 41-year-old said in an interaction.

Having played domestic cricket for Bengal, Goswami is privy to the excitement with which the Kolkata Derby is watched by players plying their trade across different sports. With emotions running high, the dressing room is a sight to savour in her words, with each individual cheering vehemently for their respective teams.

“We tried to avoid watching the derby matches together in the Bengal dressing room.”

“In the Bengal team, we had plenty of Mohun Bagan supporters, and we all got in front of the TV and started fighting whenever there was a Mohun Bagan-East Bengal match. We tried to avoid watching the derby matches together in the Bengal dressing room! But honestly, it’s beautiful; you won’t find such passionate fans anywhere,” Goswami recollected.

Federation Cup 1997 memories

Apparently, love for football, and more importantly East Bengal FC, runs in the family for the seasoned Indian cricketer. So much so that her favourite memory of supporting the iconic club goes over 27 years back, in the July 1997 fixture between the two teams in the Federation Cup. Former Indian captain Bhaichung Bhutia had scored a hat-trick in front of a jam-packed stadium, and Goswami remembers that day like the back of her hand, even today.

“My entire family supports East Bengal FC. My favourite derby memory is when Bhaichung Bhutia scored a hat-trick in the Federation Cup against Mohun Bagan in a full house of 1.5 lakh people at the Salt Lake Stadium. East Bengal FC won that match by 4-1, and that was a beautiful moment,” Goswami said.

We need to give Carles Cuadrat more time

In the present-day context, the MI bowling coach is asking the Red & Gold Brigade to encourage fellow supporters to have the back of head coach Carles Cuadrat. The Spaniard took over coaching duties ahead of the current campaign, and the team finds itself at the ninth spot in the table with 18 points from 18 league matches so far. They are still in the race to qualify for the playoffs, but they have won only seven points out of a possible 24 since the competition resumed after the mid-season break. However, Goswami is looking at the positives seen in Cuadrat’s tenure so far and is confident that favourable results will be witnessed next year onwards.

“We need to give him some more time and not just judge by this year. Next year, I am definitely sure that East Bengal FC will do well and if Cuadrat will be the coach, he will definitely bring some new talents and we will have a great season next year,” she said.

Simultaneously, she is overjoyed with the club bringing an end to its trophy drought by emerging victorious in the Kalinga Super Cup in January. Tasting national-level silverware after nearly 12 years, East Bengal FC has a lot of reasons to take heart and confidence from that performance. It showed that they are moving in the right direction and have the talent and temperament within them to set aside and overcome occasional hiccups in the pursuit of sustainable success.

“After one decade, we won one trophy. The last was when we won the Federation Cup in 2012 when Trevor Morgan was the coach and now we won the Super Cup and we are so happy, thrilled, that we have finally started winning trophies. It was long due!” Goswami said.

When asked to share a mantra for the East Bengal FC squad ahead of the coming derby, her message was simple:

“Just go there and enjoy! Joy East Bengal!”

Where to Watch

Fans across the country can catch the action in English, Hindi, Bengali, and Malayalam. Fans can watch the action on linear channels like Sports18 Khel (Hindi), Sports18 1 HD (English), Sports18 3 SD (English, Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali), VH1 SD & HD (English), Surya Movies (Malayalam), News 18 Kerala (Malayalam – select matches) & DD Bangla (Bengali). Fans can also catch the action streaming Live for free on JioCinema, the home of Indian football. In addition to this, as part of FSDL’s partnership with OneFootball, ISL live streams and highlights of all matches of the upcoming 2023-24 season will be delivered across more than 190 countries.