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Bracing up for Mohun Bagan versus East Bengal

Ahead of the derby tomorrow, The Telegraph looks back at the iconic rivalry that has captured the imagination of generations

Agnideb Bandyopadhyay | Published 26.11.21, 12:01 AM

Bengalis have forever been a sentimental bunch. Riding on soaring sentiments, generations have witnessed the insane craze that has driven the city of Calcutta, when it comes to ‘the derby’. From worshipping the radio, to picking a favoured side of the sofa while watching the ‘boro match’, the passion, interwoven into the very cultural fabric of the city, is more than palpable when it comes to Mohun Bagan versus East Bengal, the grandest derby in the history of football in Asia. For Bagan fans, it has been about regal pride and temper, the club that defines resistance and honour, while for East Bengal fans it has always been a sense of identity, of hope and right. The clash on the field has meant so much more than mere scoreboards — transcending the divides, the derby reigns supreme, as a historic relic of the times and a tussle that lives on. As the two giants of the game square off tomorrow at Tilak Maidan in Goa, The Telegraph looks back on the defined phases of this immortal rivalry and allegiance.

1960-1970

Amal Dutta

Amal Dutta

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The times were marked by immense political turmoil, and the derby was not deprived of its fair share. For many, the allegiance provided a sense of identity to numerous dispossessed and disenfranchised. It is triumph that spoke of victory that spoke of hope and desires to countless people. The derby is political, fierce, and passionate. It never existed as a separate entity outside the social realm of the city. The ’60s belonged to Mohun Bagan. After having won the league, the most memorable clash remains the 1969 IFA Shield Final. With Amal Dutta at the helm, Bagan dished out one of the most dominant performances in the history of the rivalry, with a peerless implementation of Dutta’s revolutionary diamond system. The overlapping full backs baffling the opponent, a fierce Bagan side triumphed 3-1 over the East Bengal side, with goals from Pranab Ganguly and Sukalyan Ghosh Dastidar. 

1970-1980

P K Banerjee

P K Banerjee

The ’70s brought in a new dawn for East Bengal. Having a flawless record through the years, the dominance was more noticeable than ever. Such was the command and consistency, East Bengal remained undefeated in the derbies for more than five years. For the ‘laal-holud’ brigade this peaked with a defiant 5-0 win over the rivals in the 1975 IFA Shield Final with talisman Shyam Thapa netting a brace, which remains the biggest margin of victory till date. With the disgrace and the public outburst following the match, the Bagan team had to seek refuge on a boat to escape the public indignation.

The wheels, however, turned with veteran P.K. Banerjee taking up the reins of Bagan in the following year. With his vision and buoyed squad, he guided the Mariners to their first ever triple-crown of IFA, Rovers and Durand. But the highlight was ending Bagan’s disappointing derby draught, in a CFL clash with Mohammed Akbar scoring just after 16 seconds, which still remains a derby record, eventually guiding Bagan to a historic 1-0 victory. The wee end of ’70s brought along another memorable match which saw the Mariners triumphing 1-0, riding on Shyam Thapa’s outrageous volley and Subrata Bhattacharya’s consistency.

1980-2000

Bhaichung Bhutia

Bhaichung Bhutia

Following the August tragedy at the Eden, the two decades saw Bagan and East Bengal share the spoils often, in the first half. With star additions of Majid Bishkar and Jamshid Nassiri to the EB side, imaginative football with an attacking intent saw them edge out on the other teams, in the IFA Shield and the Darjeeling Gold Cup, defeating Bagan 3-2. Bagan pushed back to form in the latter half of the ’80s, leading to the ’90s with eight successive victories. The consistent shuttle took a definite peak with the 1997 Federation Cup semi-final clash, which saw Bhaichung Bhutia score an emphatic hat-trick and seal the deal for the laal-holud brigade 4-1. The match witnessed an overwhelming record crowd of over 130,000, which saw a duel in managerial tactics between the gaffers P.K. Banerjee and Amal Dutta.

2000 onwards...

An ATK Mohun Bagan and SC East Bengal tie

An ATK Mohun Bagan and SC East Bengal tie

The new millennium experienced redefined dynamics between Bagan and East Bengal, which saw either side topple the other at regular intervals. In the 2009

I-League clash, Chidi Edeh led the Bagan attack scoring four goals in a single match, where Bagan triumphed over rivals, managed by veteran Subhash Bhowmick, in a 5-3 win, which was slated to be redemption for the 1975 humiliation. The squads saw major overhauls and new strategies in place. In September 2015, East Bengal defeated the Mariners by a margin of four goals, for the first time in a CFL clash, with goals from Do Dong, Rafique and Bheke.

The recent reshuffle and the new era saw an ATK Mohun Bagan and an SC East Bengal germ out of new business plans and deals. The last encounter at the ISL saw Bagan defeat their rivals 3-1.

With the new season, and a completely restructured East Bengal tent, Manolo Diaz’s men look for redemption and a definitive statement against Habas’s men led by Roy Krishna, who look to be the clear favourites. The dynamic may have been varnished and tempered down over the years, but the passion remains unblemished. It has always been a city united by football and as the derby takes place tomorrow, it sings of nostalgia, memories, statements and, most importantly, of precious identity.

Last updated on 26.11.21, 12:01 AM
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