The Red and Gold Brigade have created a stern impression of themselves worldwide in the past century.
East Bengal celebrates its centenary year soon and such an eventful century it’s been for the Kolkata giants. From forming as a rebel club after facing humiliation, to becoming the prime enemy of Mohun Bagan and a top Indian club everyone recognizes. It has since delivered some special moments over the years, winning over 100 trophies and being the beacon of Indian Football in the 20th century.
The Red and Gold Brigade have created and broken history over the years, creating some spectacular achievements which not many could even match in years to come. They’ve enjoyed a bitter rivalry with Mohun Bagan, made a stark impression outside India and maintained dominance for a long period of time.
In celebration of East Bengal’s 100 years in existence, here we look at the top 10 highlights of their century.
10. Winning CFL for the record 39th time in 2017
Over the years, East Bengal have enjoyed success in many national tournaments they have participated in. However, the state league as in the Calcutta Football League (CFL) has always held a special place in the hearts. The Red and Gold Brigade have always given a lot of attention to the prestigious Kolkata league, playing some stunning football and maintaining dominance over their history.
Over this decade, the Red and Gold Brigade won the competition for eight years in a row from 2010-17. In 2017, they made history in winning it for an unprecedented 39th time. They’ve won it 9 times more than bitter rivals Mohun Bagan and are guaranteed to hold this record for the foreseeable future.
9. Signing Iran’s World Cup ace Majid Bishkar
East Bengal have signed some formidable foreign talents over the years, recently making news by snapping up Costa Rica’s Jonny Acosta last season. However, much before the foreign fandom arrived in Indian Football, East Bengal were pioneers in scouting and signing top talent. In 1979, struggling in a precarious situation, they signed Iran’s attacking midfielder Majid Bishkar to help them out.
Majid Bishkar is considered as one of the biggest legends in East Bengal’s history
Just when everyone had written off the Red and Gold Brigade, Bishkar ushered in magic in their game. He helped them win the IFA Shield, Federation Cup and Rovers Cup during troubling times, sparking up their attack with his spectacular skill. The Iranian ended up scoring 50+ goals in almost three years with the Kolkata giants, with his contributions making him among the best foreigners to have played in Indian Football.
8. First-ever Kolkata derby win over Mohun Bagan
East Bengal pencilled in Mohun Bagan as their bitter rivalry quickly after their formation, mainly due to the Mariners status as Kolkata football’s elite Indian team back then. As a matter of fact, the Red and Gold Brigade were created due to Jora Bagan refusing to play Sailesh Bose in the Coochbehar Cup match in 1920.
East Bengal formed to compete against the Mariners and after two attempts, were successful in prevailing over them in the third. They won their first ever Kolkata derby in the Khogendra Shield Final in 1921, defeating them 2-1 to win the competition. Thus began a bitter rivalry which saw some ups and downs over the years, but never lost the spark which makes it Indian Football’s crown jewel.
7. First ever NFL win in 2000.
While they might’ve been unable to win the revamped I-League over the last decade, East Bengal were quite successful playing in its predecessor. Among the founders of the NFL in 1996, they used their stature to get the league rolling. They were unsuccessful at dominating the league initially but soon tasted gold after the turn of the century.
The Red and Gold Brigade ended up winning their first NFL title back in the 2000-01 season, becoming the kings of Indian Football as a result. They narrowly piped Mohun Bagan to the title, winning the league by just one point and making some personal history in the process.
6. 2002-03 quintuple winning season.
After the turn of the century, East Bengal reaffirmed their place as the dominant force of Indian Football. Especially in the 2002-03 season, they ruled over the competitions they participated with ease and fended off whatever thrown in their way. They also created history that season, winning the quintuple aka five competitions!
Not only did they manage to nick the National Football League by five points and Calcutta Football League, they would also go onto win the cup competitions they played in. They also won the IFA Shield, Durand Cup and the Independence Day Cup to triumph over whatever competition they participated in. This record hasn’t been overcome since then and considering the state of Indian Football, won’t be broken anytime soon.
5. Reaching AFC Cup semi-finals in 2013
Well before Bengaluru FC reached the AFC Cup finals in 2015, East Bengal were the pioneers of lighting Indian Football’s name in the continental level. After many attempts at AFC Cup glory, the Red and Gold Brigade had their best run in the 2012-13 season. Put in a tricky group, they ended up winning it in dominant fashion. East Bengal didn’t lose a group stage game, winning four games and scoring 13 from 6 games. In the Round of 16, they crushed Burmese side Yangon United 5-1 thanks to Chidi Edeh and Penn Orji’s brilliance.
Watch: East Bengal Vs Al Kuwait AFC Cup 2012-13 semifinal second leg highlights
The Red and Gold Brigade were fearless against Indonesian giants Semen Padang in the quarter-finals, piping them 2-1 through both legs. Although they ended up being humbled 7-2 by eventual winners Al-Kuwait, reaching the semi-finals itself was a stunning achievement for the Red and Gold Brigade. They displayed some of the best football for Indian sides in the AFC Cup, winning over plaudits for their brilliance
4. Record 5-0 Win Over Mohun Bagan In 1975 IFA Shield Final
There have been some really memorable Kolkata derbies over the decades, but one doesn’t really get more eventful than that which took place in 1975. It was the IFA Shield final between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, taking place in the Mariners yard in the Mohun Bagan ground. What began as ecstasy from the home ground soon turned into a nightmare. East Bengal was unplayable on the day, with their biggest stars turning up big time.
They routed the Mariners 5-0 in their own ground, with goals from Surajit Sengupta, Shyam Thapa, Ranjit Mukherjee and Subhankar Sanyal completing the demolition derby. The game became so shocking that an East Bengal fan allegedly suffered a heart attack due to sheer ecstasy. On another hand, a Mohun Bagan fan couldn’t bear the humiliation and committed suicide, leaving the note saying, “By becoming a better Mohun Bagan footballer, I wish to take revenge of this defeat in my next birth.”
3. Historic 1970 IFA Shield Win over Iran’s PAS Club
The 1970s was a beautiful time to be an East Bengal fan, as the club experienced their best decade in history over that course. Boasting some of their best ever players and sizzling playing style, they kicked off the decade in style with the 1970 IFA Shield win. After progressing into the final, the Red and Gold Brigade made history in becoming the first Indian club after Independence to defeat a foreign opposition to win a major trophy.
They faced Iran’s formidable PAS Club but defeated them in a gritty encounter to lift the trophy. The solitary goal from Parimal Dey was enough to help them make history, as East Bengal’s win proved Indian clubs could well and truly stand tall against foreign oppositions.
2. 1997 Federation Cup victory over Mohun Bagan
The Kolkata derby’s popularity reached a boiling point in 1997 when the Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal met in the prestigious Federation Cup final in the Salt Lake Stadium. A record attendance of 134,000 filled the jam-packed stadium for what would be a spectacle worth remembering for decades. East Bengal, rallied on by the roaring crowd, decided to put on quite the show.
Watch: East Bengal 4-1 Mohun Bagan 1997 Federation Cup final
It all started when Nazim-ul-Haque opened the scoring in the first half, but the second half was arguably the most memorable. Bhaichung Bhutia doubled his side’s lead one minute into the half before Chima Okorie pulled one back in the 66th minute. However, Bhutia was a man on a mission and emphatically score two more to complete his hattrick, winning the final 4-1 to earn bragging rights for his fans.
1. ASEAN Club Championship win in 2003
Following their early dominance after the turn of the century, East Bengal aimed to maintain dominance in foreign soil as well. They got invited to participate in the LG ASEAN Club Championship in 2003, facing some formidable teams from around the Asian Continent. However, Subhash Bhowmick’s side were fearless in their task and triumphed over whoever came in their way.
They dominated proceedings and went onto win the Championship, defeating Thailand side BEC Thero Sasana in the final 3-1. Bhaichung Bhutia scored eight goals in the tournament and played a pivotal role in helping the Red and Gold Brigade create history. They became the first Indian side to win a major trophy in foreign soil, proving true that Indian sides can prevail in dangerous opposition territory.