The word derby bears special significance on a sporting field. The Manchester derby, the Milan derby, the Madrid derby and many other sporting clashes have been cherished across the football world for ages.
Actually a derby is a unique identity in every footballing nation. Bangladesh was once proud of its own derby on a football field, which was as popular and intensely followed as any other derby in the world.
That derby still returns on paper every year. But unfortunately the first letter of the derby nowadays stands for detached and disowned -- detached from a once-vibrant soul and disowned perhaps by its officials.
We will have our latest derby -- a Mohammedan-Abahani clash -- at the famous Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni Stadium today. To be honest it would have passed unnoticed had it not been advertised by the media, which is still playing a forceful role in an apparent attempt to revive that glorious battle -- not just a mere clash on the field but the most important social phenomenon over a course of three decades.
That social phenomenon has now been bracketed into just statistic. Interestingly, the most intriguing statistics is that this battle will in no way decide where the league will be heading this year, which had been the case from early 70s to early 90s. While Abahani is leading the pack with 37 points from 17 games, their bitter rivals Mohammedan are struggling to avoid the ignominy of being relegated with 17 points from as many games.
That is still acceptable because world football has seen a lot of ups and downs for big clubs. But the most disturbing disclosure of this rivalry is the sense of belonging or the lack of it from the club officials, especially from the Mohammed ranks. Accountability of the collective consciousness, passion for its glorious legacy and commitment to its millions of followers is the missing cue.
We will have another important sporting engagement on the same day in the form of two playoff games of the Bangladesh Premier League Twenty20 at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur. And we can expect a full house for those cricketing contests designed more for fun than a serious sense of belonging.
Don't get amused if you see the top officials of both Mohammedan and Abahani skip a trip to Gopalganj, instead enjoying the game of cricket, leaving the once all consuming derby to die a slow yet painful death.