History of Mohun Bagan

– Presented by Sabujmaroonswapno

It was year 1889. The Indian independence movement against the British rule was spreading rapidly after the uprising of 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. It was a period of growing political awareness, manifestation of Indian public opinion, and emergence of Indian leadership at national and provincial levels. The spontaneous and widespread rebellion fired the imagination of the Indian nationalists throughout the country. Under these circumstances, the birth of Mohun Bagan club on 15th august 1889 is not only organizing a football club but a step forward towards promoting a patriotic feeling, an awakening spirit in Bengali hearts. Mohun Bagan is not only a club, it is a national institution.The pioneer of Mohun Bagan Sporting Club, as it was named, was the then eminent lawyer Bhupendranath Basu, who later on became the president of Indian National Congress. The Basu family, the Mitra family, and the Sen family bestowed equal efforts towards the foundation of the club. The first meeting of the club presided by Basu himself, was held at his residence at 14,Balaram Ghosh Street of North Kolkata .The Secretary was Jatindranath Basu.

That historical day witnessed the presence of many distinguished persons who were involved in many social reforms. Among them were –

 

  • Bhupendra Nath Basu
  • Jyotindra Nath Basu
  • Maharaja Durga Charan Laha (Maharaja of Shyam Pukur)
  • Maharaja Rajendra Bhup Bahadur (Maharaja of Coochbehar)
  • Monilal Sen
  • Jyotindra Nath Mitra
  • Sir Bhupendra Nath Mitra
  • C.C Dutta (I.C.S)
  • Ram Goswami
  • Hem Nath Sen (better known as Fonbabu)
  • Girin Basu
  • Roybahadur Chunilal Basu
  • Upen Ghosh
  • Manomohan Pandey
  • Dr.Manindra Nath Basu
  • C.K Sarkar (Architect)
  • Pramatha Nath Chattopadhyay
  • Sir Brajendralal Mitra
  • Satish Chandra Mitra
  • Susheel Chandra Mitra
  • Sarat Chandra Mitra
  • Sir Nripendra Nath Sarkar
  • Sir Prabhash Mitra
  • Dr.Ganendra Nath Mitra
  • Prafulla Basu
  • Prabhash Basu
  • Hriday Krishna Ghosh
  • Sir Rajendra Nath Mukhopadhyay
  • Major S.K Ghosh (I.C.S)

The first ground of the Club was inside the famous marble palace, owned by Kirti Mitra of the Mitra family, known as Mohun Bagan Villa. It was situated at Fariapukur street of north Kolkata. But as a football ground this was not sufficiently large.

It is believed that Mohun Bagan played the first match on this very ground against the students of Eden Hindu hostel. The players of the initial team included

 

  • Girin Basu
  • Pramatha Nath Chattopadhyay
  • Sachin Bandhyopadhyay
  • Ram Goswami
  • Sarat Mitra
  • Hem Nath Sen (Fonbabu)
  • Nalin Basu
  • Upen Ghosh
  • Manindra Nath Basu
  • Manilal Sen
  • Manomoham Pandey
  • Probhas Mitra

About providing new membership for the club, the management preferred students with due permission from their respective parents. Jatindranath Basu took special attention towards etiquette and education.
On the eve of first birthday of the club, some students of Presidency College, who were also the members of Mohun Bagan, invited their Professor, the famous Grammatologist Prof. F.J. Rhow. Professor asked whether the club organizes any kind of Riffle shooting or angling activities Knowing that there are no such activities of the club, he suggested that instead of ‘Sporting’, the word ‘Athletic’ will be more appropriate . The members agreed and changed the name to “Mohun Bagan Athletic Club”. The 2nd anniversary assembly was presided by Sir Thomas Holland who later on was appointed as the member of Governor General Council.

In 1891, with the help of the Maharaja of Shyampukur, Durga Charan Laha, club ground was relocated to his ground at Shyampukur. That place is now known as Shyampukur Laha Colony. Later, with the help of Mr. Harry Lee, the chairman of Kolkata Corporation, the ground was again shifted to Shyam Square. The ground was shared with the Aryans Club and Bagbazar Club. The first tournament of Mohun Bagan was Coochbehar Cup, which was held in 1893. Mohun Bagan’s first opponent team was the European team, the ‘C’ Company of Sussex Regiment. At that time, the opponents of Mohun Bagan were National AC, Town Club, Aryans, Calcutta Medical College, Shibpur B.E College. St. Josephs College, Kumartuli, Ft. William’s Arsenal and the famous Sovabazar Club, founded by the father of Indian Football Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari. In 1895 and 1898, Jatindranath Mitra and Bhupendranath Mitra became secretary of the club respectively.

From 1890 onwards, sufficient information regarding Club’s works is not available for some years.

In 1900, Subadar Major Sailen Basu took the charge of the secretary of the club. He paid highest attention for the physical training and fitness of the players of which he had earned experience during his service at the Army. And that showed great results. 100 years ago Mohun Bagan won Coochbehar Cup, in the year 1904, which was its first trophy. The year 1905 witnessed Mohun Bagan as the winner of Coochbehar Cup as well as Gladstone Cup .At the final of Gladstone Cup,Mohun Bagan defeated Dalhousie (winner of that year’s IFA Shield) by 6 goals to 1 .From 1906 to 1908 Mohun Bagan set a new record by winning the Trades Cup for consecutive 3 times. At that time, Trades Cup was the next prestigious tournament after IFA Shield. In 1906,Mohun Bagan also won in the Minto Fort Competition by defeating Calcutta Football Club.That year Mohun Bagan missed the chance of participating for the IFA Shield because P K Biswas, who had played for National also played for Mohun Bagan in the same year.

This was considered as illegal by IFA and Mohun Bagan was declared disqualified for that year.In 1907 and 1908 Mohun Bagan also won the Gladstone Cup and Coochbehar Cup. In 1909 Mohun Bagan won the Laxmibilash Cup for the first time.Club Secretary Subedar Major Sailen Basu was the First and Highest Ranking Indian Officer of the 49th Bengal Regiment. Basu’s role for the club and team making is remarkable. Such as the arrangement for a new club tent, a new ground, making a good football team and increase the number of Club members. In 1900, Mohun Bagan became the partner of Presidency College and shared the same ground at Kolkata Maidan (Ground). Mohun Bagan continued to play here for 15 years. Then in 1915, Mohun Bagan got the ground of National AC. On this ground, Mohun Bagan played till 1963. In 1915, that ground was stretched east–west. But afterwards, it became north–south like the other club grounds in Kolkata Maidan. Presently, that ground is occupied by one of the oldest clubs of Kolkata, the Aryans Club, who shares the ground with the East Bengal Club. Membership fee for ordinary members was 8 Annas (Anna – unit of Indian currency at that time. 16 Anna = 1 Rupee), and 4 Annas for the students. There was no discrimination regarding collection of membership fee from the rich to the poor.

But the fund was not sufficient to build club premises on the Ground. It is known that a meeting was held among the Officials of the club. Jyotindra Nath Basu, Sailen Basu, Dwijen Basu, Sir Bhupendra Nath Mitra and Dr. Girish Ghosh were present. The meeting was regarding the construction of Clubhouse. Surprisingly, after some days, one fine morning people noticed a clubhouse inside the Mohun Bagan Maidan premises . There is no evidence of this in the financial records of the club.The donors remains unknown to us till date.The first opportunity to participate in IFA Shield came in 1909.At that time,the participation in IFA shield itself was an honour because not all teams were allowed to avail the opportunity. The other lucky four teams were Shovabazar, Townclub, Heir Sporting and Chinsurah Sporting.But Mohun Bagan was eliminated in the 2nd round after being defeated by Gordon Highlanders by 3 goals to nil.In the next year,after winning Laxmibilash Cup and the Asanulla Cup, Mohun Bagan lost to Rifle Brigade in the 2nd round of IFA Shield.

From 1910 to 1912,Mohun Bagan consecutively triumphed Bengal Jimkhana Shield. Obviously Mohun Bagan earned the highest position among all the Indian teams.

Then came the year 1911,one of the most memorable years, in the history of Indian football. Mohun Bagan reached the final after defeating St. Xavier’s in the first round, by 3 goals to nil, Rangers in the second round by the same score again, Rifle Brigade in the third round by 1 goal to nil and Middlesex Regiment in the Semifinal .1st day of semifinal was a draw.But finally Mohun Bagan reached final after victory by 3 goals to nil against Middlesex Regiment.The 29th of July 1911. Mohun Bagan lost in toss and was placed towards Eden Garden,and East York towards Fort William.The match referee was H.G.Puller.Under the captainship of Shibdas Bhaduri,Mohun Bagan players entered the ground encircled by thousands of supporters hopefully looking forward for the victory.The captain of East York team was Sergeant Jackson. The total match time at that time was 50 mins and a break of 5 mins in between. In the first half, Mohun Bagan was in an aggressive approach. The effort of Kanu Roy, Shibdas Bhaduri and Bijoydas Bhaduri is worth mentioning. Equally attacking was East York. But there was no goal.In the second half, Mohun Bagan was under tremendous pressure. At the end of 15 mins, Sergeant Jackson lobbed the ball to score the first goal. But hardly 5 mins passed and Shibdas Bhaduri of Mohun Bagan equaled the scoreboard. And eventually after a restless tug of war Mohun Bagan experienced the final strike. The hero of this historical moment was Abhilash Ghosh who hit the neat goal, by grabbing a quick pass from Shibdas, just at the verge of the end of the game, when only 2 minutes were left. Mohun Bagan won IFA Shield. All the spectators were astonished by the stunning performance of Mohun Bagan.

The Indians burst in ecstasy. The most incredible fact of the game was that all the players of Mohun Bagan were barefooted. And those outstanding 11 players of the final match were

 

  • Hiralal Mukherjee(Goal)
  • Bhuti Sukul(Back)
  • Sudhir Chatterjee(Back)
  • Monmohun Mukherjee(Back)
  • Rajen Sengupta(Back)
  • Nil Madhav Bhattacharya (Half back)
  • Kanu Roy (Forward)
  • Habul Sarkar(Forward)
  • Abhilash Ghosh (Forward)
  • Bijoydas Bhaduri(Forward)
  • Shibdas Bhaduri(Forward)

Newspapers throughout the world, like London Daily, Manchester Guardian, Singapore Times, local newspapers like Empire, Weekly Mussalman, Comrade etc published the news of victory of Mohun Bagan appreciating and complimenting its skill and courage.“For the first time in the history of Indian Football, a core Bengali team, Mohun Bagan, won IFA Shield by defeating a competent White team. Though about 80,000 spectators were present on the ground, but most of them could not see the match. By noticing the flying of kites, they were following the actions of the match. And when they came to know about the win of their team, they started tearing off their shirts, waving them, tearing their hairs.” Reuter, London.Manchester Guardian commented ‘The team comprising of the Bengalis won the IFA Shield by defeating three top military teams. 80,000 Indians will remain witness to this event. There is nothing to be surprised at. The team that is physically more fit, has sharp surveillance and intelligence, wins.’

The members of the Moslem Sporting Club were almost mad…rolling on the ground…on the victory of their Hindu brethren.’ –The Mussalman, Calcutta.

The Bengali’ published a poem on 30th of July in honour of Mohun Bagan. It said,


‘Thanks my friends of football renown,
For bringing the British teams down,
A victory grand to behold,
Serene and noble-bright and bold’ –‘The Mohun Bagans.’

 

That year Mohun Bagan also won the Gladstone Cup and Asanulla Cup. But in the next year, 1912,it won only the Asanulla Cup. This year’s win was the third consecutive win.

At the beginning of the 1913,Shibdas Bhaduri handed over the charge of captainship to Habul Sarkar.But unfortunately no victory added to Mohun Bagan’s credit this year. It was this year when Gostho Pal, better known as the Chinese wall, joined the Club as back. His first match was against Dalhousie F C at the age of 16 only. He continued to play for 22 years thereafter as successful back. He also took responsibility of captainship from 1921 to 1926.

In 1914,for the first time, Mohun Bagan was given the opportunity to take part in Calcutta Football League’s Second Division, as a national team. First year 91 Highlanders won the League. Mohun Bagan and Messerers shared the second position. As 91 Highlanders was a military team, it was eliminated from the League, as per IFA rules. For the first Division League, Mohun Bagan confronted Messerers on the Caledonian Ground. First day resulted in a draw, but Mohun Bagan lost on the second day by 2 goals to 1. But fortunately, Mohun Bagan got the opportunity to compete in the First Division, since RGA team emptied a position by withdrawing from the League.

Meanwhile, Subedar-Major Sailen Basu had to leave Calcutta for his commitments in the Military Service for the first world war.The responsibility of Club Secretaryship was handed over to Dwijendranath Basu., nephew of Bhupendranath Basu. Dwijen was only 15,when he started playing, and he was the then best center forward . Dwijen served for Mohun Bagan,as a member of the Working Committee from 1912 to 1915,as the honorary Secretary from 1915 to 1923,as Asst.-Secretary in 1924,as honorary general Secretary from 1925 to 1932.During this time the association of ‘Gaice Babu’ – D N Guin (Deben) is worth mentioning. He was the ground Secretary of the Club in 1911-12,Asst.-Secretary from 1913 to 1923,and a member of the Working Committee in 1924.In 1914 and thereafter, Mohun Bagan participated in many charity matches to raise fund for different social reforms. This year Mohun Bagan celebrated Silver Jubilee. From 1915, Mohun Bagan started playing in the First Division League.On 15th May 1915, the first match was against Calcutta Club. The match resulted in draw. Participants of this match were

 

  • Hiralal Mukherjee (Goal)
  • Gostho Pal (Back)
  • Bhuti Sukul (Back)
  • Habul Sarkar (Half-Back)
  • Abhilash Ghosh (Half-Back)
  • Sanyal (Half-Back)
  • Babu (Forward)
  • Chatterjee (Forward)
  • Dafadar (Forward)
  • S.Bhaduri (Forward)
  • Bhattacharya (Forward)

 

Mohun Bagan succeeded in occupying the fourth position in the League. That year Mohun Bagan’s Junior Group reached the Semi-finals of the Trades Cup as well as the Coochbehar Cup. On the other hand, Mohun Bagan reached the Semi-finals of IFA Shield Competition.
In 1916, Mohun Bagan occupied the second position in the Calcutta League.
In 1917,Club lost to Middlesex team in the IFA shield.