The Kolkata giants have enjoyed a lot of success in almost 130 years of their existence.

The Munich Disaster in 1958. Johan Cruyff signs for FC Barcelona in 1973. Barcelona’s first treble under Pep Guardiola in 2008. Some moments turn clubs upside down and some have had an effectuating effect towards greatness, irrespective of competitions and countries. Such moments have a lasting impression on the future of the club, while also leaving an ever-lasting mark on its history. For a club like Mohun Bagan that has existed for over 130 years, it has had its share of defining moments – both joyous and bad.

Let’s take a look at some of them:

Establishment Day – 15th August 1889

Three aristocratic families from North Kolkata came together to form the club – the Bose family (of Shyam Pukur), Mitra Family (of Faria Pukur) and the Sen Family (of Bagh Bazar) under the name ‘Mohun Bagan Sporting Club’. Situated in Faria Pukur Street, ‘Mohun Bagan Villa’ served as the first home ground. It was also the venue for the club’s first-ever game against Eden Hindu Hostel.

Bhupendra Nath Bose was the first President of the club. The revolutionary also became the President of the Indian National Congress in 1914 and played a role in India’s freedom struggle. Manilal Sen, member of the Sen family, was the first captain of Mohun Bagan.

1911 IFA Shield defeating East Yorkshire Regiment

Mohun Bagan

Those were the days when only British teams in India participated in IFA Shield, with just one club allowed to participate, on an invitational basis. After two second round exits in 1909 and 1910, the youngest and most talented member of the Bhaduri family, Sibdas, was given the responsibility to form a team. He made a lot of changes, both in terms of position and personnel and brought down the average age. The oldest player on the side was 30.  

Defeating St. Xavier’s (3-0), Calcutta Rangers (2-1) and Rifle Brigade (1-0) saw the team reach the semi-finals. In the semis against 1st Middlesex Regiment, the match had ended 1-1, thanks to some heroic goalkeeping from Hiralal Mukherjee and a late goal from Kanu Roy. The return leg, played the next day, saw Mohun Bagan win 3-0 and reach the final, becoming the first Indian club to do so.

On 29th July, all roads led to one destination – the Calcutta Football Ground. Tickets usually priced at ₹2 were sold for ₹15 and the ground had 80,000 fans! After the East Yorkshire Regiment took the lead, Sibdas Bhaduri dribbled his way past the opposition’s defence and scored. Abhilash Ghosh scored the winner and the ground erupted in a mini-earthquake. Reeling from the partition of 1911, the victory gave Bengal and India a vital rallying point in their struggle against the British Raj.

1939 first Calcutta Football League title

The start of the 1930s wasn’t the best for Mohun Bagan, with the club losing Sailendra Nath Basu and Sibdas Bhaduri in 1931 and 1932 respectively. While the club also lost Umapati Kumar and Gostha Pal to retirements, they were reinforced by Anil Dey in the full-back position and Satyen Guin in attack. Guin was nicknamed ‘Racing Deer’ for his speed.

Under Bimal Mukherjee (son of member of 1911 team Manmohan Banerjee) and with a lot of talent, Mohun Bagan ended their long and arduous wait for a major trophy, winning their first Calcutta Football League title in 1939.

1947 first IFA Shield post-Independence

Mohun Bagan, in its family of founding members had several people who played a key role in India’s fight for Independence. Thus, when Mohun Bagan’s Establishment Day coincided with the announcement of India’s freedom by Jawaharlal Nehru, everyone associated with the club knew no bounds. Sailen Manna had by then joined the club and they were itching for national supremacy.

With British teams out of the equation, the Mariners quickly became the top team in the country, engaging in a keen tussle of power with East Bengal. In 1947, Mohun Bagan ended their 36-year-old wait for the IFA Shield, defeating East Bengal 1-0 in the final. After 1911, the club had reached the final thrice, but had failed to cross the final hurdle.

1977 First Treble and New York Cosmos

Pele
1977: New York Cosmos star Pele in action against Mohun Bagan in Kolkata

After the IFA Shield in 1947, there was no stopping the Mariners. Trophies were a regular feature for the club. They might have fallen behind their arch-nemesis East Bengal in the first half of the 1970s, but still won the Rovers Cup thrice in 1970, 1971 and 1972, becoming only the second Indian club to achieve the feat. After a steep decline in 1975 that saw them lose 5-0 against East Bengal in the Shield final, the team was given to P.K. Banerjee for restructuring and buoy, how smartly he did that!

After five successful seasons at East Bengal, Banerjee completely restructured the team. Winning the treble of Calcutta League, IFA Shield and Durand Cup in 1976 made them one of the strongest teams in Asia. They also won the Bordoloi Cup and Darjeeling Gorkha Brigade Gold Cup the same year. The next year was even grander.

On 24th September, 1977, a flight from Brazil carried 1970 World Cup-winning captain Carlos Alberto, Giorgio Chinaglia and the Black Pearl – Pele. The New York Cosmos had travelled to play a friendly against Mohun Bagan. Shyam Thapa and Mohammed Habib scored for the Aloke Das-led team, while Alberto and Chinaglia scored a goal apiece for the visitors. Holding New York Cosmos to a 2-2 draw made Mohun Bagan a household name across the globe. The game remains one of the most memorable encounters in not just India, but across the world.

1987 Asian Club Championship

Young and physical striker Sisir Ghosh made his debut for the club in 1985, the same year they sealed the Rovers-Durand double. In 1986, the club defeated East Bengal in the final by a solitary goal, to make it three titles in a row for the second time, becoming the only club to achieve the feat. The club also won the Federation Cup in 1986, making them one of the most successful clubs in India that year.

The Mariners were tested in continental waters for the first time next year, in 1987. Grouped alongside a club each from Iraq, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal in Round 1, the Kolkata side held their own but failed to qualify for Round 2 by a slender margin. The Mariners defeated Manang Marshyangdi 6-1 and PAF FC 4-1 in consecutive matches to stamp their domination in the group. However, Al Rasheed defeated them 2-0 and thus only one team could go beyond the group stage.

Sisir Ghosh scored six times in Round 1 as the club scored 12 times in four games.  

1989 Centenary Celebrations

Celebrating its 100th anniversary, Mohun Bagan organized a grand torch rally in 1989. The rally started from Basu Bati in North Kolkata and covered several important places in Mohun Bagan’s telling history before reaching the Mohun Bagan Ground. Mohun Bagan became the first club in India to be honoured with a postage stamp from the Indian Government on their 100th anniversary. Then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi arrived for the celebrations and during his speech, referred to Mohun Bagan as the ‘National Club of India.’

That same year, Mohun Bagan won the IFA Shield again defeating Tata Football Academy 1-0 in the final. The Calcutta League too, found a place in the Mariners’ cabinet. The club defeated East Bengal 2-0 in the final. Sisir Ghosh scored a brace to again lead his team to the podium.

1991 the signing of Chima Okorie

The year 1990 saw several changes in the club. It was time to shake up things as the club lost legend Dhiren De and Subrata Bhattacharya also hung his boots the same year. A new generation of Mohun Bagan officials came in led by Swapan Sadhan Bose, Anjan Mitra, Balaram Chowdhury and Biru Chatterjee. Another major change was made in the constitution of the club, to allow foreigners to play for the Mariners full-time.

After this change, Nigerian Chima Okorie, one of the most prolific strikers in Indian football, signed for the club. Okorie had, until then, scored 175-odd goals for Mohammedan SC and East Bengal. He came into his own, scoring 114 times for Bagan in just three seasons.

1998 first National Football League title

Mohun Bagan started the second edition of the National Football League with a 1-0 defeat to Air India. The turnaround came from Round 2 and the club remained unbeaten for 10 rounds until mid-February. They sealed the title with a dominant 3-0 win against Mahindra & Mahindra Club on March 22, 1998 – the club’s first National Football League title.

Out of the 18 games the club played, they won nine and drew seven while scoring 20 goals. Chima Okerie, in his second stint at the club, was the team’s top scorer with nine goals. He was only one behind Raman Vijayan, who ended up as the highest goalscorer of the league that season.

2020 most league titles shared with Dempo SC and merger with ATK

मोहन बागान Mohun Bagan

Mohun Bagan have been synonymous with trophies. Winning 34 major titles in their history, the club stands at the top of the heap, with East Bengal at 27. From being the first Indian side to win the IFA Shield (1911) to sealing the I-League in the recently-concluded season with four games to spare, the Mariners’ success has been unparalleled.

They have the joint-highest number of league titles with Dempo at five, the most Federation Cup victories (14) and joint-most number of Durand Cup trophies (16) with East Bengal. Now, they’re set to make their mark in the ISL, albeit as a new entity. The footballing operations will now be controlled by the RP-Sanjeev Goenka Group, bringing together ATK and Mohun Bagan as one unit.

This will indeed be a turning point in the story of Mohun Bagan’s history and some new chapters will be written in the post-merger era.

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