Gaining International Recognition:

The success story for East Bengal club continued to run on smooth tarmac even after the independence. Following the recommendation of the then Indian President, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, as the best football club of India, East Bengal was invited by Romania Youth Festival Committee to participate in their football tournament at Bucharest in the year 1953.

Ever since East Bengal defeated the Chinese Olympic XI-2-0 in their first ever international club friendly in the year 1948, the club inherited an affluent distinction of showing winning performances against the foreign club sides. In 1951, the Red & Gold Brigade defeated Swedish Champions F.C. Gotheburg by a 1-0 margin, and in 1956 the Club triumphed over Chinese Olympic XI 3-1.

The glorious trend against foreign clubs continued, as East Bengal defeated Pas Club of Iran in the 1970 IFA Shield Final, Korean club Piyong Young in the 1973 IFA Shield Final, Dok-Ro-Gang Club of South Korea in the Final of DCM football tournament in 1973, and Port Authority Club of Thailand in the Final of Bordoloi Trophy in the year 1978. Notable players from that period included former Olympians Mohammed Habib, Arun Ghosh,  Subhas Bhowmick, Sudhir Karmakar, Syed Nayeemuddin et al.

Clockwise from top left: Baskar Ganguly, Subhash Bhowmick, Manoranjan Bhattacharya, Syed Nayeemuddin, Shyam Thapa and Krishanu Dey


The Golden Decade of 1970s:

East Bengal club dominated the domestic club football arena in the 1970s. The country’s most successful coach, P.K. Banerjee, was managing the club then. With the likes of Shyam Thapa, Akbar, Manoranjan Bhattacharya and Surajit Sengupta, coupled with PK’s famous Vocal Tonic, East Bengal became the indomitable force in the country, winning the Calcutta League on six consecutive occasions from 1970-’75 and the IFA Shield five continuous times from 1972-‘76.

The pillar of success, which garnered the belief in the players during that period, was laid in the memorable win against Pas Club of Iran in the 1970 IFA Shield final. Iran were a force to reckon with in world football at that time, and the Pas Club squad had seven World Cup campaigners in their ranks. East Bengal fought hard to match their more illustrious rivals and snatched a narrow 1-0 win, to write a new chapter in the history of the club in particular, and Indian football in general.

29th September, 1975 – A Day To Remember:

Then came the magical moment of splendor that every Red & Gold supporter loves to cherish even today. The stage was the 1975 IFA Shield Final against Mohun Bagan. In a performance that made its way into East Bengal folklore, the Red & Gold brigade steamrolled their way to a thumping 5-0 victory over their bitter city rivals, which still remains the biggest ever margin in the history of Kolkata derby.

Surajit Sengupta, an ex-Mohun Bagan striker, drew the first blood for the Red & Gold brigade in the 5th minute of the match. East Bengal could have doubled their lead in the 11th minute, but the ever reliable penalty shooter Shyam Thapa missed the target from the spot. Thapa made amends in the 24th minute with a neat finish off a Subhash Bhowmick cross to make it 2-0.

Then came the magical moment of brilliance, and Ranjit Mukherjee scored the goal of the match with just about seven minutes to go before the half time whistle. Surajit Sengupta and Shyam Thapa played a nice sequence of passes between them, and the former slotted the ball to Ranjit, who dribbled past two defenders before rounding off Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Bhaskar Ganguly, to make it 3-0 for East Bengal.

Shyam Thapa completed his brace in the 52nd minute, when Surajit Sengupta’s screamer rebounded off Bhaskar‘s hands, and an opportunistic Shyam did not fail to capitalize. Substitute Subhankar Sanyal completed the misery for Mohun Bagan, putting the fifth nail in their coffin with six minutes to go before the final whistle. That was the pinnacle of glory for the club, and this spell of incredible football is etched into the memory of every East Bengal follower as the Golden Decade.

The Immortal Squad:

Tarun Basu, – Sudhir Karmakar, Ashokelal Banarjee, Shyamal Ghosh, Kajal Dhali (Mridul Mudsuddi), – Samaresh Chaudhury, Gautam Sarakar, Subhas Bhowmik, – Ranjit Mukherjee, Shyam Thapa (Subhankar Sanyal), Surojit Sengupta.

Proud Champions of 1975 IFA Shield : The Immortal Squad

Photo Courtesy: Dr. Debaprasad Deb [Paper cutting, Anandabazar newspaper: 30th Sep, 1975]

The Stumble and Convalescence:

As they say, the only way from the pinnacle is the way down; East Bengal failed to replicate its magic in the next decade. A contradiction of opinions between club secretary Dr. Nripen Das and coach P.K. Banerjee prompted the latter to part ways with East Bengal, and the club faced a difficult period to recuperate.

To make the matters worse, there came the black day of 16th October 1980, the darkest day in the history of Indian football. In a crucial face-off between the two arch-rivals, East Bengal encountered Mohun Bagan in an ill-tampered battle at the Eden Gardens. The high flying tempers on the field got cascaded into a riot like situation in the galleries. The clash between two sets of supporters resulted in few fatal casualties, and many were left seriously injured. This unfortunate incident proved to be a permanent blot in the passionate rivalry between the two clubs.

After a brief period of slump, the mid 1980s saw East Bengal rise to domestic prominence yet again under the able leadership of the newly elected club secretary, Mr. Deepak (Paltu) Das. Young players like Bhaskar Ganguly, Aloke Mukherjee, Krishanu Dey and Bikash Panji came into the senior ranks, and the Red & Gold flag soared high once again.

East Bengal achieved the glory of becoming the first Indian club to represent the country in the finals of Asian Club Cup Championship in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) in 1985-86. Overall, the club has represented our country in Asian Club tournaments a record nine times – a distinction which the other Indian football clubs remain envious of.

(To be continued…)

21 Responses to “An Eventful Journey Through Red & Gold Trails – The East Bengal Story (Part 2)”

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  1. ojogo says:

    great piece on east bengal ! keep up the great work!

  2. Somnath Sengupta says:

    Iran played it’s first World Cup in ’78, how can Pas have 7 World Cup campaigners in 1970 ? 😉

  3. Som, 20 member strong Pas Club squad had 3 players from Israel, 2 players from Morocco and 1 each from El Salvador and USSR who featured in FIFA World Cup for their respective country.

    Eli Ben Rimoz, Hummaun Shaaroki and Yechezekel Chazom are the three World Cup campaigners for Pas that I can find out at this moment.

  4. Kingshuk Mukherjee says:

    Great article. I have always said “arma bangal, ghoti-ra kangal” – what a rich history and legacy.

    A point I want to mention is that Bhaskar Ganguly, who was the unfortunate keeper for Mohun Bagan in that 5-0 thrashing, went on to come to national limeleight in East Bengal colors for his impressive showing against Bagan everytime he faced them. After that nightmarish performance in that ifa shield final, Mohun Bagan almost finished his career by accusing him of playing sabotage for East Bengal. Down and almost out, East Bengal came up in support of this excellent talent and as the say, the rest is History – Bhaskar went on to become the best goalkeeper India has ever produced.

  5. Subhasish says:

    Awesome achievements against foreign clubs. East Bengal also won the ASEAN cup in Vietnam defeating strong Korean and Thai clubs more recently in 2003. Thanks for the article.

    I want to know more about 16th October 1980, if I am not wrong 16 people died in that accident and over hundreds were injured. I think it was after this match only that football matches are stopped at Eden Gardens. Would love to have a detailed separate piece on this.

  6. Somnath Sengupta says:


    The best goalkeeper India has ever produced is a title little too far fetched to give to Ganguly. Lets not forget people like Peter Thanagaraj & Osman Jani :)

  7. Subhasish says:

    Peter Thangaraj had obvious discomfort (being almost 6.5′ tall) dealing with the low balls. Tarun Bosu, Debashish Mukherjee and Atanu Bhattacharya did very well for the clubs but did not get enough opportunities to prove their worth in the international level – they were awesome goalkeepers. Sandip Nandi was brilliant for east bengal few years back and before his injury, he shined in Indian colours in almost all his international matches – but he is inconsistent. Subrata Pal is equally good but not that successful at the club level, also his temparament is always questionable. Hemanta Dora was good for mohon bagan but only decent in international stage. None of them has a more glittering career than Bhaskar Ganguly – both for the club and the country. Bhaskar is undoubtedly the best goalkeeper for India till date with Thangaraj a close second, may be.

    The goalkeepers whom I saw live in action myself, I would rate Sandip Nandi to be the best along with Debashish Mukherjee. Tanumoy Bose was also superb.

    Who is Osman Jani? Sorry never heard of him :(

  8. Somnath Sengupta says:

    Osman Jani was a ‘keeper with Mohammedan who played during their golden era. The players whi have seen his play swear that he was the best keeper they ever saw, I have read the same thing said by Prasun Banerjee as well as PK.

    Both Dino Zoff & Lev Yashin were over 6 ft tall :) No one ever pointed out that low balls was a weakness for them :)

    In fact till 60s it was a pre-requisite for GKs to be tall. The rest of ‘keepers that you mentioned really dont fall in the same bracket with these three.

  9. sounak says:

    Peter Schmeichel was 6’4″ and Buffon is 6’3″.
    Any doubts on their goalkeeping skills? 😀

  10. Subhasish says:

    Hey, I did not want to generalize things here. I specifically want to say that Thangaraj had genuine weakness against low balls [fact] and this might be because of his high stature [opinion]. You can ask any of the elderly people who used to visit maidan in the sixties to validate this fact. Actually he was so strong in collecting ariel balls that strikers were reluctant to try long rangers in air. The myth around the maidan was that Thangaraj could only be beaten by powerfully strike accurate shots along the ground.

    Thanks for the info on Osman Jani. that was informative. You mentioned that Jani was the keeper during their Golden era – which period do you mean? Late 1930s-mid 1940s or 1980-85?

  11. Somnath Sengupta says:

    I meant the first one 30s & 40s.

  12. Subhasish says:

    If I am not wrong PK born in late 1930 and Prasun is younger than him by atleast 3 years. How can they watch him live? There was no video recording those days, so its impossible for them to watch Osman’s game ever. I am surprsed as how can one praise someone whom they had never witnessed. Weird 😉

  13. Somnath Sengupta says:

    Did I say they watched him live ? 😮

    “The players who have seen his play swear that he was the best keeper they ever saw, I have read the same thing said by Prasun Banerjee as well as PK.”

    I said I read about him in PK & Prasun’s articles 😐
    They said that people who watched Jani play swore that he was the best ever. Prasun’s article was in a Khela Puja Edition of 2001 or 2000.

  14. Subhasish says:

    Great, that’s what I wanted you to clarify. So Prasun or PK did not say that he was the best ever. 😀
    The line I have read the same thing said by Prasun Banerjee as well as PK suggests that it was their opinion only, – that created the confusion. 😉

  15. Biplab says:

    Debu, loved this write-up. awesome work my friend.

    Somnath, as we can’t find anything concerete on Jani from any of the former greats, the fight for the best goalkeeper is between Bhaskar and Thangaraz. take ur pick, whoever it is he is predominantly from East Bengal camp. So no complaints. :) joy East Bengal-er joy.

    Kingshuk, +1 mate. aamra bangal, ghotira kangal. lol :)

  16. Somnath Sengupta says:

    You guys do realize that a sizeable portion of MB fan base are bangals too 😉

    I am myself a Bangal but I have always supported Bagan 😀

  17. Biplab says:

    sizable portion? hardly may be 2-3 %… and we call them traitors**… lol 😉
    **just kidding… dont take seriously… :)

  18. Not a Devil says:

    hahaha…talks of being Bangal…. 😀
    missing fish & other bengali delicecys :(
    awesome article…Debapriya keep it up mate…….

  19. George says:

    Incomparable! This particular adjective is all I can point out just for a blog post like this. This is totally a completely explanatory write-up. Good know a lot about Indian football club.

  20. Neeladri says:

    Need the video footage of 75, 5-0 win over baganis, please try to add it in u tube thus we shows 3-5 is not any margin against 5-0. please do it as early possible,

    [email protected]