The Mariners bagged several major honours with their brilliant performances across distinguished competitions.

Mohun Bagan are poised to move into a completely different era in their history, as their alliance with reigning Indian Super League (ISL) champions ATK is all set to be completed in June. This is a much-needed step forward for the Mariners, who wish to ‘evolve with time’ to remain at the pinnacle of Indian football.

While their essence, philosophy and mantra will all remain the same, the former entity will be missed by their traditional fans. Yet, once this alliance is formalized, the Mariners will still be known among the pillars in Indian football’s history.

From fighting against the British, to dominating the city and then the country, they’ve done it all in their esteemed 130+ year history. As the Mariners get ready to take a step forward into a new era, we look at the top 10 most iconic matches in their history –

10. First-Ever Standalone Federation Cup win in 1981

After the Federation Cup came into existence in the 1977-78 season, Mohun Bagan were among the favourites to win it being among the top teams in India. Yet, the first few years were a bumpy ride. They lost to ITI Bangalore in the inaugural season’s final, before having to begrudgingly share the title with arch-rivals East Bengal in the 1978-79 and 1980-81 campaigns.

But, the very next season, the Mariners were determined to ensure the title was only theirs to keep. In Coimbatore, they turned up the heat in an undefeated streak which included defeating East Bengal in the semi-finals. Feisty winger Narayanswami Ulaganathan and striker Shyam Thapa scored in the 2-0 final win over Mohammedan Sporting to ensure Bagan proved themselves as the undisputed best in India.

9. Dramatic draw against Bengaluru FC to clinch first-ever I-League title

Highlights: Bengaluru FC 1-1 Mohun Bagan

Since the National Football League was founded in 1996, Mohun Bagan enjoyed a lot of success, winning three titles in the space of a decade. However, they just couldn’t cut it when the I-League was inaugurated in 2007. Every season followed shortcomings before magic arrived in the 2014-15 campaign. Inspired by shrewd tactician Sanjoy Sen’s cunning management, Mohun Bagan had one hand on their maiden I-League trophy when they travelled to Bengaluru FC in the championship decider on June 1, 2015.

A sense of déjà vu filled their hearts when the Blues took the lead through John Johnson’s first-half strike. With time running out and home fans ready to celebrate, the Mariners threw one last roll of the dice and Abdul ‘Bello’ Razaq headed in a dramatic equalizer. The few hundred travelling fans invaded the pitch after the final whistle, as Bagan finally clinched the I-League title on a memorable day.

8. First-ever win in Asia against Manang Marshyangdi

Despite decades of dominance in Indian football, Mohun Bagan only got the opportunity to take centre-stage in an Asian competition in 1987. After winning the Federation Cup, they qualified for the Asian Club Championship where they were placed against difficult oppositions.

Following a shaky start to the competition, they created personal history by defeating Manang Marshyangdi 6-1 in a group stage encounter to record their first-ever win in Asia. While the Mariners missed the chance to go past the group stages, that iconic victory gave them confidence to succeed in official Asian competitions.

7. Thrilling 5-3 Kolkata Derby win in 2009

Highlights: Mohun Bagan 5-3 East Bengal

Better known as the ‘Chidi Edeh Derby,’ as the Nigerian managed a feat yet to be matched in a Kolkata Derby by scoring four goals! Incidentally, this game took place a few months after East Bengal had dented the Mariners’ opportunity to win the 2008-09 title with a thumping 3-0 win in February. Yet, revenge was sweet for the Mariners!

In a nail-biting game, Mohun Bagan went 3-1 up through goals from Chidi and Manish Maithani before a Yousuf Yakubu brace brought it back to 3-3. But, Chidi turned up the volume with two more stunning goals, sinking the Red and Gold Brigaders to ensure a historic win for his side.

6. 5-0 IFA Shield final loss to East Bengal

Ironically, the 5-3 win came 24 years after what could be stated as a ‘defining match’ in Mohun Bagan’s history. The 1975 IFA Shield final is among the darkest moments in their history, but also a much-needed reality-check. They were thrashed 5-0 by East Bengal, as even a goalkeeping change didn’t stop the misery. Fans hunted down players, one even took his own life promising to be reborn as a Mohun Bagan player to seek revenge.

It was also the fifth consecutive derby won by the Red and Gold Brigaders, forcing the Mohun Bagan management to look for a fresh start. Led by Secretary Chandra Madhab Roy, the Mariners signed a slew of high-profile players and also brought in legendary coach Amal Dutta. Their fortunes quickly changed, as they reclaimed control of Kolkata football and played every single corresponding derby with added vigour.

5. 1978 IFA Shield dinal draw against FC Ararat

Mohun Bagan regained their place at Indian football’s pinnacle after the 1975 nightmare and earned the confidence to take on anyone who stepped in their path to success. In the 1978 IFA Shield, they faced well-known Soviet club FC Ararat Yerevan – quarter-finalists of the 1974-75 European Cup (now UEFA Champions League). They dominated their league and many European sides, but were humbled by Mohun Bagan.

After the visitors took the lead in the 1978 IFA Shield final, the introduction of electric winger Bidesh Bose changed the game. Md. Akbar scored the equalizer from his cross before Manas Bhattacharya made it 2-1. The Mariners dominated a rain-soaked game, but Ararat scored a last-minute equalizer to avoid embarrassment. The trophy was eventually shared, but that colossal performance proved that the Mariners, as a unit, could easily tussle against formidable European oppositions.

4. 1977 IFA Shield final redemption against East Bengal

The 5-0 loss in the 1975 IFA Shield final created an obsession for revenge inside the Mohun Bagan squad and they achieved it two years later. Their redemption curve was met when they took on their rivals in the 1977 IFA Shield showpiece, only to ensure that there were no bumps in the road this time around. The Mariners pushed back a strong East Bengal side’s charge with defiance.

Related – Mohun Bagan: Top 10 defining moments in Mariners’ history

Incidentally Shyam Thapa, who had scripted their misery two years earlier, became their biggest weapon on the day. The majestic forward came back to haunt his former side, scoring a spectacular winner by dribbling past multiple defenders before slotting home a memorable goal. Mohun Bagan won the Shield, but more importantly issued a warning to the other clubs – they were back to their very best.

3. Holding the legendary Pele’s New York Cosmos to a draw

Pele with Mohun Bagan squad
Mohun Bagan players pose with Brazilian legend Pele

Mohun Bagan’s quest to become an internationally-recognized club was fulfilled in 1977 when they pulled off an unprecedented coup in Indian football. With some intricate work from the management, they organized a friendly against Brazilian legend Pele’s, New York Cosmos in Kolkata. The scintillating spectacle took place at Eden Gardens in what was simply a thriller. Apart from Pele, Cosmos also had other prominent players like former Brazilian captain Carlos Alberto and Lazio legend Giorgio Chinaglia.

But, the Mariners were fearless in front of a packed 75,000+ stadium, going toe-to-toe with the international stars. Shyam Thapa and Mohammed Habib’s strikes helped them rally back from an early opener from Alberto. Pele was substituted later on, but a controversial penalty helped Chinaglia score from the spot to make it 2-2. However, Bagan’s incredible fighting spirit earned the respect of Pele and Co, scripting one of the best matches in the club’s history.

2. Defeating Tampines Rovers in AFC Champions League qualifier

Mohun Bagan once again created history in Indian football with their heroics in the 2016-2017 AFC Champions League qualifying stages. They took on Singaporean heavyweights Tampines Rovers in the first round of the AFC Champions League Qualifiers in a period when no Indian club had made it past the initial qualifier. However, Sanjoy Sen’s side took the fight to Rovers, defeating them 2-1 at their own ground before a pivotal game at the Salt Lake Stadium.

An inspired performance saw Bagan emerge 3-1 winners, with goals from Jeje Lalpekhlua, Cornell Glen and Katsumi Yusa sealing a remarkable success. They became the first-ever Indian side to make it to the second round of the AFC Champions League Qualifiers, with their iconic win proving that Indian clubs could still hold their own in Asia.

1. Overwhelming the East Yorkshire Regiment to win the 1911 IFA Shield

When Mohun Bagan lined up to face East Yorkshire Regiment in the 1911 IFA Shield, it wasn’t merely a football match. More than 90,000 spectators flocked into Maidan to watch a mini-war between the ‘superior’ British and their own hard-working Bengali folk. Doom was sparked early when Regiment took the lead, but Bagan showed a never-say-die attitude the British side didn’t expect.

Captain Shibdas Bhaduri rallied his men by scoring a stunning equalizer before Abhilash Ghosh netted a dramatic winner. After the game, the players and fans were overcome with joy and the British embarrassed. Winning the IFA Shield was a huge thing, but even bigger was making this defiant statement that they could usurp the British. Mohun Bagan became the talk of the town after this and even 100+ years after that day, the iconic win of 1911 will always remain their biggest-ever achievement.

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