( Continued from Part 1 )
Post 1911 – hard times
The immediate years after the glorious IFA Shield win were dismal. In 1914, Gostha Paul – an 18 year old – would join the club. He would never play for any other club, till he retired in 1935. A fabulous defender, he was nicknamed as “The Great Wall of China”. He later became the first Indian footballer to get the ‘Padma Shree’. The legendary player has been commemorated by a stone statue in Kolkata; a postage stamp was issued in his name as well.
In 1914, Mohun Bagan was promoted to first division of the Calcutta football league. After the Shield, another glass ceiling was broken when Bagan became the first Indian club to play in the Durand Cup, back in 1925. In the midst of this, another significant incident occurred. A group of Mohun Bagan officials would disband to form “East Bengal Sporting Club”. This would signal the start of a famous never-ending rivalry.
Back to winning ways
After a long wait, Mohun Bagan would win the Calcutta League in 1939. In the years leading up to independence, numerous trophies were won including the Calcutta League in 1943 & 1944. In 1947, Shibdas Bhaduri’s prophesy would come true as Bagan captured their second Shield title.
The Shield winning team was captained by Dr Talimeren Ao, who played for nine years in a Bagan shirt. One of the members of that team was Sailen Manna, often considered as the finest Indian player ever. A born leader, he was selected as one of the top ten captains in the world by the FA in 1953. A true Mohun Bagani, he never changed his club. And he played with a nominal salary of Re 1!
The glorious fifties
1950s would prove to a golden era for the Green & Maroon brigade. A host of trophies would be won: Calcutta League (1951, 1954, 1955, 1956), IFA Shield (1954, 1956) Durand (1954) and Rovers (1955).
One of the goal scorers in the Durand final of 1954 was Samar ‘badru” Banerjee, an attacker with sublime skills. Abdul Sattar was also one of the mainstays in ‘50s.
Chuni Goswami would join the youth ranks in 1946. In his 22 year stay in the club, he would become the first celebrity footballer in India. His dribble & dodge (known as “chupki” in maidan) were famous. He reportedly turned down a blank cheque offer from East Bengal & from Tottenham Hotspurs.
Stopper Jarnail Singh joined in 1958 & would don the green & maroon colours with pride and dedication for a decade.
The next two decades
Bagan would start the 60s with a tour to East Africa. Calcutta League was won five times, including four times in a row from 1962 to 1965. The Shield was also won in 1961 and retained in 1962, followed by victories in ’67 and ’69. A hat-trick of Durand Cups was done during 1963-65 and the Rovers Cup was also lifted in ’66 & ’68.
Early 70s were a period of struggle though; rivals East Bengal were going through a golden period of their own. This decade will have a fond memory & a painful one.
In 1975, Bagan would go down 5-0 to East Bengal in a Shield final. Bagan fans carried the scar of this loss for a long time. The players had to spend the night on a boat on hoogly to escape fans’ wrath.
The good memory was a match against Pele in ‘77, the game eventually ended in a 2-2 draw. That game against New York Cosmos was arranged thanks to the untiring efforts of Dhiren Dey. Cosmos also fielded Giorgio Chinaglia, a Lazio legend & Carlos Alberto, Brazil’s World Cup winning captain.
Among the legends in this decade, one was Subrata Bhattacharya. Another stellar defender, Subrata was renowned for his head strong attitude. Ulganathan, a forward per excellence from Karnataka would put on the green & maroon shirt in this decade.
Prasun Banerjee, brothers Habib & Akbar (latter scored a goal in 16 seconds in a derby), Bidesh Bose, Sudhir Karmakar, Gautam Sarkar & Compton Dutta would form a memorable team which captured a unique treble of Rovers, Durand & Shield in 1977. Members of the same team would also win the inaugural Federation Cup in 1978.
(Part 3 to follow)