Kingfisher East Bengal is one of India’s oldest football club who is celebrating its 96 year of glorious existence in Indian football. Located in the heart of Maidan, on the East Beangal Road in Kolkata, the Mecca of Indian football, have fan base which is only paralleled by city rival Mahun Bagan another iconic football club India have.
Donning the red and gold jersey East Bengal clinched the National League for three times and 17 Federation cup. Besides being one of the old football club, it is the only Indian team which have best ever result in AFC cup, semifinal. That is not the best outside laurels East Bengal has had, in 2003 East Bengal under tutelage of Subhash Bhoumik.
But, only stats don’t bear the legacy of East Bengal. It history in its name. In colonial India in 1920 it was difficult for Indian clubs to participate in the most prestigious league IFA Shield. Football was most popular among the Bengali youth till Indian clinched the 1983 Cricket World. Mahun Bagan won the historic 1911 IFA Shield over England football team. But, Kolkata clubs found it difficult to to participate in the league as IFA Shield Governing Body allowed only two First Division clubs to participate in the league. As a result Mohun Bagan and Kumartuli had been able to participate. Meanwhile according to EB website two native clubs were denied promotion in spite of topping the Second Division.
Bengali natives enjoyed the game only playing in Coochbehar Cup and Trades Cup .
On this day in July 28, 1920 Jorbagan was playing Mahun Bagan in Coochbehar Cup. Minutes before the kickoff Jorbagan’s halfback Sailesh Bose was dropped from the team.
Suresh Chaudhuri, the founder of East Bengal asked club authorities to include Bose in the team, but they ignored his request. Angry Chaudhuri snapped all connections with Jorbagan and formed a new club along with Raja Manmatha Nath Chaudhuri, Ramesh Chandra Sen an Aurobinda Ghosh.
The new club was named East Bengal as the founders were from Bangladesh which in 1920 was part of greater India.
Red and Gold
Thereafter the founders debated intensely over the choice of colours for the club jersey. After a long search they opted for a red and golden colour shirt hanging impressively at the Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co. Departmental Store at Chowringhee. These colours became permanently associated with the club.
Name selection has changed the history of Bengal’s rich football history over the years. East Bengal has become public institution for many people who left Bangladesh for India. To all grievance East Bengal was answer to East Bengalis.
The iconic rivalry between Mahun Bagan and East Bengal started with its name. The supporter of Mahun Bagan is known as “Ghoti” as they have root in West Bengal itself and the East Bengal supporter known as Bangal as their ancestral home is in Bangladesh. Both use to abuse each other for their speaking style cultural nuances.
With Mahun Bagan opposed East Bengal’ s participation in IFA Shield the rivalry become more intense.
The rivalry was so much present in social life. Movies were made on rivalry, famous hilsha fish and prone are answer to each other. There was a time when “Ghotis” hate to eat hilsha and Bangals prone.
Even, both boys and girls were not get married between the rivals. That was the golden age of Indian football.
Football was a subject of discussion on every tea stall. At least 20 people died in a Mahun v East derby match in 1982 at Eden Gardens as spectators of both team started fighting after the match was ended with goal less draw.
Now, in 21 st century, football landscape changed, but East v Mahun rivalry still exits though its intensity is now history, still 80k people fill the Salt Lake stadium, but there was time when not a single seat was vacant. I have personal experience of watching 150th derby last year, seen how people went mad when East Bengal won the match 4-2. The entire middle tire and lower tire of Mahun Bagan was standstill. But when they scored the first goal of the match the picture became alive.
This year, the big boys of Mahun Bagan and East Bengal will not play the IFA Shield for which East Bengal was desperate to participate. Fans have to wait see the derby in I-League, the national football tournament.
Now, the Bong society has changed a lot, football is no more a family matter, not discussed at tea stall. But, people around the world still cheer for the red the gold. Wish you many many happy returns of the day, happy birthday East Bengal.