Club Day: Mohun Bagan - The History

As part of our Club Day programme, we present you with the history of one of India’s and Asia’s biggest clubs Mohun Bagan…
Mohun Bagan were established on August 15,1889 not only as a club but as a national institution. Pioneered by the then renowned lawyer Bhupendranath Basu and aided by the Basu, Mitra and Sen families, the club was formed as part of the widespread rebellion against the British Raj that was gathering momentum at the time.  

The first ground of Mohun Bagan was inside the marble palace owned by Kirti Mitra of the eminent Mitra family and was known as the Mohun Bagan Villa situated at Fariapukur street of north Kolkata. Initially several member of the club were students.  

The name of the club was soon altered to Mohun Bagan Athletic Club and in 1891 they moved to a ground at Shyampukur. They however shifted soon, this time to Shyan Square.  

Mohun Bagan’s first tournament was the Coochbehar Cup held in 1893 and their first opponent, a European opposition, was the “C” Company of Sussex regiment. Their first trophy was the Coochbehar Cup, which they won in 1904. They then won the Trades Cup from 1906 to 1908 and won the Laxmibilash Cup in 1909 for the first time.  

Then came Mohun Bagan’s big triumph. On July 29,1911 they defeated East York in the final of the IFA Shield and this sent shockwaves not only in India but in England too, with newspapers such as the London Daily and Manchester Guardian all hailing this massive conquest.  

In 1914 Mohun Bagan featured in the Calcutta Football League for the first time. They played in the Second Division and were soon promoted to the First division. Mohun Bagan continued to impress and in 1920 reached the semi-finals of the IFA Shield and lost in the final of the same in 1923 to Calcutta Football Club. They also reached the final of the Bombay’s Rover’s Cup but lost to Light Infantry.  

In 1925 Mohun Bagan were invited to participate in the Durand Cup and reached the semi-finals of the competition. Mohun Bagan continued to impress in whichever competitions they participated in and then in 1928 they won the Power League, the Coochbehar Cup and the Laxmibilash Cup. Mohun Bagan continued gathering success in the 1930’s too.  

In 1942, for the first time ever, an Insurance Scheme was implemented for the medical aid of the injured players during matches. Then in 1943 and 1944 Mohun Bagan won the Calcutta League. Meanwhile, a junior team was formed and this was taken care of by the famous footballer Balai Das Chattopadhyay.  

In 1947 Mohun Bagan were invited to the Madura Cup and reached the final of the competition, only to lose to Hyderabad Police in the final. They won the Calcutta Shield that year.  

After India’s Independence, Mohun Bagan became the first club to win the IFA Shield. In 1953 Mohun Bagan won their first ever Durand Cup and accomplished the League Championship and IFA Shield double in 1954. Two years later in 1956, they won the Rovers Cup for the first time in their history.  

Mohun Bagan continued their winning habit and between 1970 and 1972 won the Rovers Cup three years in a row. Their success story gathered further momentum in the 1970’s and they won the First Division League, the IFA Shield, the Rovers Cup, the Durand and the Gorkha Brigade Gold Cup of Darjeeling in the decade. The 1980’s too was a period of much success. They celebrated their centenary in 1989.  

Mohun Bagan have continued garnering regional and national success since the 1990’s and have established themselves as a major force in modern Indian club football. They have continued winning the Rovers Cup, the Federation and the Calcutta Football League as well as the IFA Shield.  

Players such as Jose Lui Ramirez Barreto and Bhaichung Bhutia have graced the club and have become legends at Mohun Bagan in recent years. They won the National Football League in 1997-1998, 1999-2000 and 2001-2002 and although they have not been the champions of India since 2002, they are still very much a dominant force in Indian club football.  

Subhankar Mondal