The Indian Bengali diaspora in UK is always seen donning the jerseys of their favourite club East Bengal or Mohun Bagan every summer since the past 6 years (excluding the COVID year of 2020). The excitement is building up for 9th July, this year at Arbour Park, Slough, to play in a day long fans’ football tournament called IFA Shield UK, where IFA stands for Indian Fans Alliance, which is accredited by the FA of England!
Every year it turns out to be a fun filled football and food day with ilish and chingri (prawn) in the food menu. This year is no exception. But with the support and initiative of Mohammedan Sporting Club’s football Secretary Dipendu Biswas, the club fans are making their maiden entry into the tournament. The icing on the cake for this year is the Indian High Commission sending a team led by the Deputy High Commissioner Sujit Ghosh himself. The team looks quite interesting with former India International Jules Alberto and the youngest councillor of Harrow Council Mathew Goodwin Freeman in their lineup!
The tournament is played in men, women and kids segments with the women folk doing a penalty shootout only. But the fun is no less there.
For the organisers Heritage Bengal Global’s Rajib Saha, Sourav Paul, Ramita Ghosh, Sudipto Bhowmik this year is a new challenge having to accommodate the highest number of teams making it the biggest IFA Shield UK till date. Pointers Business Forum (PBF) has been an integral part of this tournament since the last two years, led by its Chairman Suborno Bose of IIHM, Secretary Sanjay Guha of Acquist Realty based in Mumbai, Debashis Ghosh of Kolkata and Shoumo Chowdhury of Harrow and are working on the sponsorship and international networking side, making it a truly global initiative.
HBG Vice President Mahua Bej is busy coming up with new posters every other day, reflecting the ever-changing requirements of the tournament and liaising with external bodies to ensure a smooth delivery.
The players Sayantan Chakraborty, Abirbhaab Bandyopadhyay, Hrishik Bose playing for the East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting respectively are busy practicing every week since the last few months, aiming to win the trophy. For the second time Dibyendu is flying down all the way from Switzerland to play.
The educational institute GBS support local community events on a regular basis and is happy to sponsor the IFA Shield UK 2023 which is one of the biggest attractions of the Indian diaspora.
HBG Director Anirban Mukhopadhyay, the man behind this tournament, says, ‘The success of this can be judged from the fact that it is now being played in Australia and US also. Sydney will host its own IFA Shield Australia on 23rd September. A large part of the UK Bengali diaspora is now identifying themselves with this tournament.’