A century of toil, a century stuffed with heartbreaks and euphoria has solid an intimate bond between East Bengal and its devoted whereas enshrining its place within the annals of Indian soccer.
One of the crucial profitable golf equipment within the continent, nevertheless, is in turmoil in its 100th 12 months, with plans of star-studded centenary celebrations — that included a much-publicised pre-season recreation towards Manchester United — put to relaxation due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the overall uncertainty over the membership’s future. Whereas archrival Mohun Bagan has made the transition to the brand new massive league of Indian soccer, East Bengal — nonetheless with no backer with deep pockets — is left in search of methods to remain related and make the step up.
Going through the most important problem since its delivery, East Bengal might want to draw inspiration from its distinctive historical past to reinvent itself because it has on many events within the 100 years previous.
The membership was shaped to present voice to the Bengali diaspora hailing from the opposite aspect of the River Padma through the peak of India’s freedom battle in 1920. As the whole nation rose in unison to Mahatma Gandhi’s name for “non-cooperation” towards the British rule, there was a demographical displacement and a resultant angst within the folks travelling away from their place of birth. Books and literature accessible on East Bengal broached a divide based mostly on the dialect and tradition of the 2 areas of the identical State located on both aspect of the river. And this chasm has perpetuated one of many oldest soccer rivalries on the earth.
As its inception lay within the response of the folks seeking to reinvent their bearings, East Bengal all the time was the rebellious scion to Mohun Bagan. The latter turned the consultant of the natives of the western a part of Bengal, which merged with India after Independence. This shaped the idea of the ideological conflict. Older by a bit over three a long time, Mohun Bagan had the early benefit, however East Bengal rose quickly on the grit of its gamers and supporters to be a reliable challenger.
The East Bengal workforce that gained the IFA Defend in 1949. The membership gained the treble of the Calcutta Soccer League, the IFA Defend and the Rovers Cup for the primary time that 12 months. – The Hindu Picture Library
East Bengal gained the primary assembly between the 2 golf equipment within the Calcutta Soccer League on Could 28, 1925. Mohun Bagan supporters, all the time extolling their workforce’s momentous IFA Defend victory in 1911, at the moment are coaching their analysis on discovering out conferences between the 2 previous to that interval. The controversy over which workforce is best resurfaces each time the 2 meet to revive the rivalry within the Kolkata Derby.
Just like its sensational inception, East Bengal is claimed to have obtained its crest in equally dramatic style. “It was 1930 and East Bengal was assured of making it to the first division of the CFL (Calcutta Football League) after winning eight consecutive matches in the second division. The Indian Football Association, then the preserve of British rulers, decided to abandon the tournament. The growing political turmoil following the announcement of the Civil Disobedience Movement and later arrests of our national leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Sarojini Naidu brought great unrest in Calcutta,” recounts Kushal Chakraborty, who has been chronicling East Bengal’s historical past.
“The IFA’s decision to abandon the CFL that season robbed East Bengal’s chances of making it to the first division. East Bengal supporters and club officials decided to march to the IFA office in protest. It was already dark. They decided to light torches, which, while lighting up their path, came to symbolise their protest. The club adopted a lighted torch as its emblem.”
East Bengal returned to the primary division in 1932 and narrowly missed out to change into the primary Indian workforce to win the CFL. A constructive end result towards British regimental aspect Durham Gentle Infantry would have introduced it the crown, however East Bengal was held to a 3-Three draw. It performed with a person quick for an important a part of the second half within the absence of the substitution rule as full-back Paritosh Majumdar left the sphere with an damage. East Bengal ultimately gained the title in 1942, however Mohammedan Sporting in 1934 had gained the race to change into the primary Indian membership to take action (and gained it for 5 consecutive seasons). Regardless of the late begin, East Bengal is probably the most profitable workforce within the CFL with 39 titles.
East Bengal’s success will be basically divided into two components. The primary 50 years introduced in a sizeable quantity of laurels, however the latter half of the century gave the membership its true place within the pantheon of nice soccer golf equipment within the continent. The 1940s had been the last decade of Fred Pugsley, the Anglo-Burmese refugee who fled Japanese bombings in 1942. He travelled a whole lot of kilometres on foot although the treacherous terrains of north-eastern India to succeed in East Bengal, the one deal with he knew in India. East Bengal’s famend secretary Jyotish Chandra Guha couldn’t imagine his eyes when he noticed Pugsley standing on the membership gate, battered and bruised, the arduous journey from Rangoon (now Yangon) taking its toll. Pugsley’s solely request to Guha was to let him play for East Bengal. The East Bengal secretary was in a spot of trouble. Guha knew Pugsley’s calibre as a participant from the few journeys that East Bengal had made to Burma earlier than the battle, however he couldn’t draft him in due to an unwritten rule of not permitting Anglo-Indians to play for the membership. Guha satisfied his colleagues to make an exception. Pusgley took a few seasons to recuperate and hit true kind in 1945 when East Bengal made the grand double, successful the CFL and IFA Defend.
Then adopted the reign of the well-known 5 strikers often known as the “Pancha Pandavas.” The groups, then, performed a five-forward system and Guha went to southern India to seek out the deadly mixture of attackers – Appa Rao, P. B. Saleh, Ahmed Khan, P. Venkatesh and Ok. P. Dhanraj. Appa Rao, hailing from Madras (now Chennai), was the primary to reach in 1941 and was joined in later years by Saleh (from Kottayam, Kerala), Ahmed Khan, Venkatesh and Dhanraj (all from Mysore). With the 5 exhibiting excellent mixture and abilities, East Bengal dominated Indian soccer between 1949 to 1953, successful 11 trophies – CFL titles in 1949, 1950 and 1952, and successive IFA Defend crowns in 1949, 1950 and 1951. It additionally gained two Durand Cups (in 1951, 1952), two DCM trophies (in 1950, 1952) and one Rovers Cup (in 1949).
(Clockwise from high left) Ok. P. Dhanraj, Ahmed Khan, Appa Rao, P. Venkatesh and P. B. A. Saleh all performed collectively at East Bengal for 5 years from 1949 to 1953, and all 5 captained the workforce in numerous years. – The Hindu Picture Library
Within the subsequent 50 years, it gained the CFL 31 occasions and obtained its title on the Defend on 19 events, signifying an upward trajectory in its quest for glory. By the late ’60s, East Bengal noticed a change in guard in administration following the departure of Jyotish Guha, who was on the helm of the membership’s administration for nearly three a long time.
The brand new administration was headed by a mixture of educated elite, mainly medical docs, and distinguished businessmen of the time, and within the following decade, East Bengal gained six consecutive CFL titles and a bunch of all-India trophies. “That is definitely the golden period and stands out in the history of the club,” says Surajit Sengupta, one of many best artistic wingers to have performed for East Bengal and India.
“East Bengal was not able to celebrate the record of winning its sixth CFL title in 1975 as the IFA was not officially declaring the winner owing to the result of a match that was contested in a court of law. It was such a dampener for the players and avid fans of East Bengal. Finally, the dispute was resolved and the IFA announced us the winner. This happened on the day when we were to play Mohun Bagan in the IFA Shield final. It was such big news for us that it provided us the impetus to outclass Mohun Bagan 5-0 and lift the IFA Shield,” recounts Sengupta. That IFA Defend victory margin nonetheless stays a document that East Bengal followers proudly flaunt. “There are not many clubs in the continent which have achieved as much as East Bengal. The early ’70s were a period of utter uncertainty in Bengal. With the education system in turmoil and joblessness at its peak, the disgruntled youth took solace in their favourite team’s success on the field,” says Sengupta in regards to the time.
East Bengal continued its march by the 1980s, choosing up trophies in virtually each season, until it reached one other massive milestone in 1997, successful probably the most hyped derby encounters that was watched by round 130,000 spectators. The famed duel of phrases between the legendary P. Ok. Banerjee, who coached East Bengal, and the famend Mohun Bagan coach Amal Dutta set an excellent prelude to the Federation Cup semifinal that noticed Bhaichung Bhutia revealing his genius by scoring the primary hat-trick of the Kolkata Derby (East Bengal gained the match 4-1).
East Bengal marched into the brand new millennium with renewed vigour and dominated the nationwide scene successful three Nationwide Soccer League titles between 2001 and 2004. The very best got here in 2003-2004 season when it asserted its supremacy within the native, nationwide and worldwide arenas. With Bhutia persevering with to tug its fortunes, East Bengal wrought an excellent mixture of Indian and international recruits below the stewardship of Subhash Bhowmick as coach. After successful the CFL, East Bengal went to Indonesia on an invite to take part within the ASEAN Membership Championship, which it gained, beating Thailand champion BEC Tero Sasana 3-1 within the ultimate in Jakarta on July 24, 2003. East Bengal concluded the season by retaining the NFL crown.
Lately, it has been principally about breaking its personal CFL document (of six consecutive wins between 1970 and 1975) and changing it with a brand new mark of eight consecutive titles from 2010 until 2017, however success on the nationwide stage has eluded the membership.
With Mohun Bagan making the shift to the Indian Tremendous League, East Bengal — in pressing want of recent backers to navigate the uneven waters of a extremely commercialised recreation — is hoping to attract on its legacy to reinvent and regroup to face the challenges. This story of despair can be the story of Indian soccer in recent times, the place the All India Soccer Federation and its business companion Soccer Sports activities Growth Ltd. have missed the normal golf equipment and their fanbase provides prominence to the brand new franchisee league which has failed in its efforts to attract the soccer followers of the nation.
A reenergised East Bengal and the persevering with drama of the Kolkata Derby shall be good for Indian soccer. “The ISL needs East Bengal and vice versa. Today, La Liga cannot do without Barcelona and Real Madrid and the two clubs cannot do without the league,” Indian soccer legend Baichung Bhutia accurately says.