I-League Special: The History Of East Bengal

As part of the build-up to the I-League, Goal.com brings you the summarized history of East Bengal...
Origin…

Now it’s strangely true that the seeds of the club’s birth were sown over a disagreement. Don’t believe it? On July 28th 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).

Early Days…

Soon after its inception, the club officials decided to have red and gold jerseys. The club played its first tournament in the very month of its birth and won the ‘Hercules Cup’ with no Herculean effort. The club entered the second division of Indian Football Association’s (IFA) league in place of Tajhat Club and finished third.

Co-Sharing The Ground…

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.

Major Breakthrough….

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.

Title Time…

East Bengal won their maiden league title in 1942 and followed it up with the IFA Shield in the next. They completed their double – league title and IFA shield in 1945 and recorded their highest margin of victory 11-0 against   B.B.C.I. Railway with Pagsley scoring eight. Nayar scored 36 goals 1946 league. The club won IFA shield thrice between 1949-51.

Recognition…

The Red and Gold’s were recognized by English FA’s annual almanac by stating it as the best Indian soccer club in 1951-52. East Bengal, on being recommended by Late President of India Dr.Rajendra Prasad, were invited by Romania Youth Festival Committee in 1953 to participate in a football tournament. They also toured the Soviet Union.

Giant Killers…

The club acquired the status of defeating foreign teams with ease as they downed Chinese Olympic XI 2-0 in 1948, FC Gotheburg (Sweden) 1-0 in 1951 and in 1956 an IFA XI. Their best achievement has been beating PAS Club (Iran) 1-0 in the IFA Shield final 1970 and also beating Pyongyang City (North Korea) in 1973.

The 70’s and 80’s….

Several big names donned the jersey of East Bengal like Bhaskar Ganguly, Manoranjan Bhattacharya, Aloke Mukherjee, Tarun Dey and many more in this era. The team won several laurels and continues to be a success story.

Enter Dr.Vijay Mallya

Dipak Das after being at the helm of affairs at the club for a long time realized the need for large funds. He entered partnership with Dr.Vijay Mallya’s United Breweries Group in 1998. Within the constitution of the club a Private Limited Company was formed covering the affairs of the football team under the name and style of "United East Bengal Football Team Private Limited." Mr. Dipak Das became the Managing Director of the Company till his sad demise in March 2001. The team was later re-named as ‘Kingfisher East Bengal’.

The NFL…

In the National Football League which started in the 1996-97 season, East Bengal finished third. They finished runners-up in the next two seasons. They won their first NFL only in the fifth edition under Manoranjan Bhattacharya. East Bengal was the first club to win back-to-back titles in 2002-03 and 2003-04.

Asian Honours

The club beat Iraq’a Al Zawara in Asian Cup winners Cup football tournament at Kolkata by a 6-2 margin. They won the ASEAN Cup by beating Tero Sassana in Jakarta 2003. East Bengal have made three appearances in the AFC Cup and reaching the quarterfinals stage was their best achievement in 2004.     

Bad Times...

For the last two seasons, the Red and Gold’s have been struggling to keep pace with the best in the business as they are often seen fighting relegation. The only bright spot has been the 3-0 victory over Mohun Bagan which ended the latter’s dream run of ten unbeaten matches. Their build-up to the I-League 2009-10 has been disastrous as they were humbled by lesser known outfits like Tata Football Academy (TFA), Shillong Lajong and Chirag United. The club will have to regroup and get their act together if they hope to get positive results and regain their past glory.