The age-old rivalry that once defined Bangladesh's sporting culture will play out today with much of the old lustre dimmed as archrivals Mohammedan Sporting Club take on Abahani Limited for the first time in this season's Dhaka Premier League at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur today.
Be it in football, cricket or hockey, this fixture has been raising adrenalin among fans in this part of the world in the four decades since independence.
However, the once-strong fan base of the two clubs has gradually decreased to the extent that it has become a mere battle that draws on a myth for significance.
The battle between the once-famed shirts of the 'Sky Blues' and the 'Black and Whites' draws much of its hype from the media but over the years, the intensity surrounding the match-up has dipped drastically.
“The intensity is now reflected on the field but not in the stands these days. Previously we used to see fans of both clubs divided into two parts in the stands. Nowadays the stands remain empty with very few spectators, but us players keep our focus on the game. That is how the Abahani-Mohammedan game is going these days,” Abahani skipper Mosaddek Hossain told reporters ahead of the much awaited Dhaka derby yesterday.
Abahani, however, have established a clear superiority over the past few years in the rivalry, having won the majority of games against Mohammedan in recent times.
With four wins in five games, table-toppers Abahani are once again eyeing the much-awaited derby but Mohammedan have been playing some good cricket as they have won three out of their five games so far.
Abahani, however, lost their four-match winning streak in their previous game against Prime Bank, when they succumbed to a 16-run defeat.
The likes of Soumya Sarkar, Nazmul Hossain, Sabbir Rahman, Mohammad Mithun, Rubel Hossain and, of course, the inspirational Bangladesh ODI skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza will all look to make a comeback in the league. They 'Sky Blues' also have in their ranks Indian recruit Wasim Jaffer, who has been in terrific form in the league so far.
Mohammedan, on the other hand, are banking on a bunch of experienced campaigners with skipper Raqibul Hasan alongside Tushar Imran, Mohammad Ashraful and Sohag Gazi in the lineup.