Highlander fans escorted out by the army after they were racially abused by East Bengal fans

NorthEast United FC fans were forced to be escorted out of the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata after the first semi-final of the Durand Cup as East Bengal fans created ruckus along with hurling racial abuse and allegedly “threw stones” and “sandals” on them on August 29.

NorthEast United FC were playing their semi-final match against the local club and were quite ahead till the last moments of the game, which probably fueled the Emami fans.

The Highlander fans, who were given a designated spot right ‘opposite’ the center-half, were vocal in their support for the travelling team. The Highlander Brigade were chanting and appreciating their team’s performance – which was even audible on the live TV coverage – when unruly supporters of East Bengal went berserk and started pelting stones along with hurling racial abuse and derogatory remarks.

The onslaught from the East Bengal fans, along with verbal racial abuse, went louder once the match situation changed towards the fag end of the semi-final. While NorthEast United conceded two late goals to take the match onto penalties (which they lost at the end), the fans were escorted out by security forces.

The abuse did not stop at the stadium. On social media, statements like “Guwahati is in Myanmar”, “Rohingya” and “Chinese” references and “open challenges” were hurled at the NEUFC fans.

In a long social media post on August 30, the Highlander Brigade condemned the behaviour of the East Bengal fans calling it as “gundaism”. The supporters’ club of the NorthEast United published a video of the incident and highlighted the unruly abusive behaviour meted to the travelling fans.

“The situation was so hostile that our supporters had to be escorted out by the army. We had sizable female fans with us, if not for the army, god knows what would have happened,” the statement said.

“Will we brush this under the carpet as something very normal at the (so called) Mecca of Indian football? Or will we be vocal for the safety of fellow human beings who want to have a great experience supporting and watching their team play? If the whole community doesn’t come together to stop this culture now, someday it might even be fatal for someone and that will be a blot on the game of football,” the Highlander Brigade statement said.

A fan club of Mohun Bagan also strongly protested the attack on Northeast supporters. “We condemn the supporters of the particular club who caused this incident. This is not the culture of Bengali football,” a social media statement said on August 30.

A report in the Indian Express said that trouble started when NorthEast United scored their first goal in the match.

“It all started in the metro, on our way to the stadium. My friends and I were called names like corona and momo by East Bengal supporters. We did not pay much heed to it at the time,” the reported quoted an unnamed postgraduate student from Darjeeling who was a spectator.

“There were about 80 to 90 students from the Northeast and Darjeeling who were watching the game from ramp 16. The moment a goal was scored by our team, the crowd started shouting abuses. They called us momo, chowmein, corona and made obscene gestures,” alleged a student.

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