I-League: Mohun Bagan - East Bengal Rivalry

The Mohun Bagan – East Bengal rivalry dates back to the day when the latter was formed in the early 1920’s. It’s one of the oldest rivalries to exist in football and even older than the India-Pakistan cricket duel! Here’s the story in a gist.
Mohun Bagan was to face Jora Bagan in Coochbehar Cup and star half back Sailesh Bose was excluded from the latter’s side. Jora Bagan’s vice-president and chairman Suresh Chandra Chaudhari requested for his inclusion but his request fell on deaf ears and so, he several all his connections with the club.

Chaudhary alongwith Raja Manmatha Nath Chaudhuri, Bose, Ramesh Chandra (Nasha) Sen and Aurobinda Ghosh former a new club  on 1st August 1920 was named it East Bengal as the founders hailed from that part of Bengal (present Bangladesh). The club was formed as a mark of protest against injustice and discrimination against East Bengals. It is to be noted that Sailesh Bose was from Dacca and hence was excluded from the team to face Mohun Bagan.

Mohun Bagan’s partner for ground was National A.C. of Behala and it was invalid by then and the former was having the full use of the ground. East Bengal took up the case and despite opposition from Bagan, they won and became the co-sharer of the ground in 1922.

In 1924 East Bengal became joint winners of the Second division alongwith Cameroon’s B but with the former fielding it’s A side in the top division, the latter stood in contention for promotion. In those days, only two Indian clubs were allowed in the top division and with Mohun Bagan and Aryans already in it, the chances of being promoted were dim. At last the rules had to be changed to include East Bengal but ironically it was Mohun Bagan and Aryans who opposed their inclusion.

The fierce between the clubs was also because of the socio-political set-up in the eastern India. In the pre-partition India, Bangladesh was known as East Bengal where the ‘Bangals’ inhabited and in western part, had ‘Ghati’. With the times having changed, there are supporters of both communities for each of the two teams.

An interesting thing to note is that the Mohun Bagan fanatics celebrate the derby win with prawn while the East Bengal fans go for ‘Hilsa’ fish.

The 1971 war for independence saw a rising number of immigrants from Bangladesh or East Bengal come to West Bengal. This did increase the increase the fan base of East Bengal football club.

The reasons for the two teams to fight it out on the field are innumerable. The most recent one sparked a lot of controversy.

Just before the start of the I-League, Mohun Bagan general secretary, Anjan Mitra asked the name of East Bengal to be changed as the name is communal. He was of the opinion that by renaming the club would purge the acts of violence amongst the fans.

East Bengal manager Swapan Ball was miffed at this comment and they formally lodged a complaint with the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

For now, head straight to Salt Lake and others can watch the game on Zee Sports!

Enjoy the action! You would see for yourself what makes it special. 


Rahul Bali.