The rivalry between the Kolkata clubs is an interesting chapter in Indian football.
Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have been two of the most remarkable giants in Indian football for quite a long period of time. Now, the former has merged with ATK and will be primarily plying their trade in the Indian Super League next season. On the other hand, there is still a blanket of uncertainty regarding the latter’s induction in the ISL.
As both of them belong to the same city, an intense competitiveness and friction exists between the two clubs. This is further amplified when a player secures a direct transfer from Mohun Bagan to East Bengal or vice-versa. Here, we ponder upon five such players who actually did so in their careers and thereby examine the way in which their spells panned out.
Lalramchullova commenced his career with Aizawl FC in the 2015-16 I-League season and he had made 15 appearances in the league when they won the title under Khalid Jamil the next year. However, he soon made the move to East Bengal and represented them for two consecutive campaigns.
In 32 I-League matches for the Red and Gold, Lalramchullova scored a goal and bagged three assists too. The 25-year-old player’s performances were widely recognized, as his consistency coupled with the overall defensive qualities that he possessed made him a valuable individual in the lineup.
His performances played an essential role in East Bengal’s Calcutta Football League title victory in the 2017-18 season. In a stunning move, he was roped in by Mohun Bagan in July 2019. He played only five I-League games in the Mariners’ victorious campaign under the tutelage of Kibu Vicuna. In April 2020, Lalramchullova moved back to East Bengal, as the club looks to revamp their squad altogether.
4. Subhash Bhowmick
One of the more renowned footballers from back in the day, Subhash Bhowmick, made multiple moves from East Bengal to Mohun Bagan and vice-versa in his nearly 10-year long playing career. Bhowmick used to play as a striker and was extremely efficient in putting the ball in the back of the net.
He began his career with the Red and Gold, but left the club to join the Mariners merely a year later in 1970. He was known as a robust striker who led the forward line with conviction and played a vital role in East Bengal’s famed 5-0 thrashing of Mohun Bagan in the final match of 1975 IFA Shield.
Moreover, Bhowmick was a part of the squad that claimed the bronze medal at the Asian Games of 1970, that were held in Bangkok, Thailand. Eventually, the veteran striker concluded his career in 1979 after having spent three stints at East Bengal and a couple with Bagan.
Furthermore, Bhowmick even led the Red and Gold to two successive NFL titles from 2002-2004 as their head coach. His stint with Bagan in 2010-11 didn’t yield similar returns, though, but the man has attained a cult status among both set of fans.
3. Katsumi Yusa
East Bengal pulled off a massive coup, as they lured in former Green and Maroons skipper Katsumi Yusa in 2017. The Japanese winger had donned the Mohun Bagan jersey for four seasons. He had scored 17 goals in 78 I-League appearances for the Mariners.
He was instrumental in their I-League victory of 2014-15, as Yusa had notched seven goals in 20 encounters that season. The 31-year-old provided an instant stimulus to the Red and Gold, as he started all games for them in the 2017-18 I-League campaign.
The former ONGC player netted six goals and assisted five others in 18 games in the league for East Bengal. However, Yusa moved to NEROCA FC after a solitary season and is regarded as a player who performed almost equally well for both the Kolkata-based clubs.
2. Monoranjan Bhattacharya
An iconic personality for East Bengal, it is rather interesting that Monoranjan Bhattacharya even managed to turn up for the Mariners towards the fag end of his career. The sturdy defender was an integral part of the backline for the club.
He joined them in 1977 and developed to become a mainstay at the back for the team. Meanwhile, Bhattacharya attained immense significance nationally too. He first represented the senior Indian team in 1978 and continued to do so in several important tournaments over the course of the next 11 years.
Furthermore, he became synonymous with East Bengal and played for the club for a massive 14 years on the trot. In 1991, he moved to Mohun Bagan and played a single campaign before returning back to the Red and Gold for the final campaign of his playing career. Moreover, the veteran has coached them in three different spells since 1996. Infact, East Bengal won their first National Football League title in 2000-01 under Monoranjan Bhattacharya’s stewardship.
1. Tolgay Ozbey
Tolgay Ozbey was involved in a cross-city transfer that irked several followers of East Bengal ahead of the 2012-13 season. The striker moved to Mohun Bagan after two fruitful campaigns with their arch-rivals. The Australian international had played 10 AFC Cup matches with the Red and Gold over the course of a couple of campaigns and had scored five goals in the continental competition.
East Bengal even emerged triumphant in the Calcutta Football League in May 2012, but the Mariners immediately announced their procurement of Ozbey from their opponents to replace club legend Jose Ramirez Barreto for the upcoming season.
Accordingly, an almost 3-month long tussle occurred between the two clubs, as the Indian Football Association had to eventually form a 5-member Player Status Committee to resolve the dispute. Allegations and counter-allegations followed, but Tolgay Ozbey finally did represent Mohun Bagan in the 2012-13 I-League season.
The forward scored 10 goals in 17 league matches that he played for the Mariners in his only campaign with them, but the entire transfer saga is still a captivating event in the history of both clubs.