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From Stadiums To Exclusive Sporting Clubs: A Sports-Lover's Guide To Kolkata

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Visit a city whose sporting culture is steeped deep into its roots

Scores of Mohun Bagan fans donning the club colours had lined up in anticipation, waiting desperately for the gates of the stadium to open. Wearing my red and yellow colours with Bhaichung Bhutia's name on the back left me lost among the wrong crowd. Clenching tightly onto my father's index finger, I attempted to peer through the multiple-layered wall of green jerseys to locate the East Bengal fans. My father, an ardent Mohun Bagan supporter for over three decades was, least to say, disappointed that his son had chosen to support the rivals. Steeped in over a 100 years of history, the Mohun Bagan-East Bengal rivalry reflects the spirit, culture and history of the sport in the state. While a derby brings out a large number of fans from the city and outskirts to witness both teams playing against each other; Kolkata is home to many other sporting cultures apart from football. Though it might be difficult to see a match (especially during the off-season), you can visit the prime locations that play host to the larger-than-life sporting extravaganzas in the city.
 
Salt Lake Stadium
 Salt Lake Stadium is home to Asia's biggest football rivalry
 
Officially called Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, it is home to the biggest rivalry in Asian football, the stadium fills to the brim when the two teams of Kolkata take on each other. The 85,000-capacity stadium has seen itself sitting a crowd of over a 100,000. Having played host to the U-17 FIFA World Cup final last year, the Salt Lake Stadium was built in 1984. A trip here on a matchday can be a tantalising prospect. Argentinian legends like Lionel Messi and Diego Maradano have graced this magnificent stadium. An atmosphere unmatched anywhere else across the world, a visit here guarantees one an exceptional experience of the history of Indian football and the culture of Bengal. 
 
Eden Gardens
 
Eden Gardens is one of the most historic cricket grounds in India
 
Considered to be the Mecca of Cricket in India, the Eden Gardens remains on the wishlist of passionate cricketing aficionados from all over the country. An iconic ground, it is well remembered for the innumerable successes that the national team have delivered here such as formidable test win over Australia in 2001, in which VVS Laxman starred while playing an astonishing knock of 281. IPL franchise Kolkata Knight Riders and Ranji side Bengal also play their home matches here. A wave of blue for the national team or gold for KKR takes over when either side takes centre stage. 
 
Royal Calcutta Golf Course (RCGC)
 
The RCGC once hosted the Indian Open and is the second oldest golf course outside of the UK
 
The oldest golf course to be located outside the United Kingdom, it was established in mid-18th century. King George V and Queen Mary honoured it with the title "Royal" to commemorate their visit to then named Calcutta in 1911. One of the most sought-after courses in Asia, it is also the second oldest in the world. Elegantly embellished using gorgeous trees and innumerable lakes, the course is intricately composed. The Wills Indian Open and Classic Indian Open have taken place here as well. 
 
Rabindra Sarovar
 
The Rabindra Sarovar holds annual boating competition during the Dragon Boat festival
 
Flooded with boats during mid-June of every year, the Rabindra Sarovar is another piece of the puzzle in Kolkata's sporting culture. As the date of the traditional Chinese Dragon Boat festival nears every year, preparations are pushed to an all-time high as those with Chinese heritage take to this river to celebrate the momentous occasion. Hordes of people line up with their elaborately decorated boats and showcase their competitive spirits in a boating competition.   
 
Calcutta South Club
 
Dating back to the 1920s, the Calcutta South Club is another place carrying significant sporting history in the city. A tennis venue, the club has previously hosted several matches in the Davis Cup. Established as the premier tennis club in the country, the club is recognised as the cradle of the game nurturing Indian talents, right from Naresh Kumar and Dilip Bose, to the evergreen Leander Paes. 
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