Indian Football: Down the memory lane - Mohun Bagan’s triple crown win in 1977

Mohun Bagan 1977 Pele
Mohun Bagan
GOAL recounts Mohun Bagan's IFA Shield, Rovers Cup and Durand Cup win in 1977...

1977 is considered to be one of the most significant years in the richly illustrated history of Mohun Bagan. 

Under the leadership of assistant general secretary Dhiren Dey, Mohun Bagan became the first club in Kolkata Maidan to install floodlights. It was inaugurated on February 10, with the Mariners locking horns with Paktakore FC of Soviet Union in a friendly match. The visitors won the match 3-0. 

Later that year, on September 24, Mohun Bagan also got the opportunity to rub shoulders with Pele's Cosmos Club at the Eden Gardens. In front of an 80,000-strong crowd, the match ended in a 2-2 draw with Shyam Thapa and Md. Habib scoring for the hosts. 

But, the most remarkable achievement of that year remains the 'triple crown' win in the domestic circuit. It was for the first time that Mohun Bagan won the IFA Shield, the Durand Cup and the Rovers Cup in the same campaign. 

It was a star-studded squad with the likes of Subrata Bhattacharyya, Pradip Chowdhury, Compton Dutta, Subhas Bhowmick, Shyam Thapa all donning the green and maroon stripes. 

However, they did not start the season on a positive note. They lost the Federation Cup final to a humble Indian Telephone Industries and subsequently, the Calcutta Football League to East Bengal after losing the derby. 

But the initial setbacks did not dampen their spirits. On September 29, Mohun Bagan once again went up against East Bengal in the IFA Shield final. The Mariners won the match 1-0, courtesy of a stunning goal by Thapa. Habib squared the ball to the former India international, who in turn dodged past Manoranjan Bhattacharyya and Shyamal Banerjee to go on and beat Bhaskar Ganguly under the sticks. 

Goutam Sarkar in midfield also played a vital role in that match as he did not allow the likes of Surajit Sengupta and Samaresh Chowdhury of the opposition to take control of proceedings in the centre of the park. 

Mohun Bagan 1977

After lifting the Shield, Mohun Bagan turned their attention to Rovers Cup. Thapa and Bhowmick continued their rich vein of form in this tournament as well. 

In the semi-finals, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan once again crossed paths. Thapa who had recently joined Bagan from East Bengal scored a brace in that match. Manash Bhattacharya on the right-wing played some exceptional football and was the architect behind both the goals. Skipper Subrata Bhattacharya also showed his mettle as he helped repel East Bengal's numerous attempts to breach Bagan's fort with elan. 

In the final, they beat Tata Sports Club 2-1 with Thapa once again finding the net. 

After winning two trophies on the trot, the Bagan fans were backing them to achieve the feat that had been eluding them for nearly a century. But Bagan had not won the Durand Cup in the past three editions. Hence there was no element of complacency in the squad. 

After a cautious start, they went on to become the group champions and booked a berth in the semi-finals. It would have been another clash with their fierce rivals if East Bengal had not withdrawn from the tournament, protesting against a red card shown to Surajit Sengupta during a group game.

Hence in the semis, Mohun Bagan once again faced Indian Telephone Industries, the team which had beaten them in the Federation Cup final. This time there was no upset and Bagan exacted revenge with a 3-1 win over them. Akbar scored twice while Thapa netted the third. 

In the finals, they met JCT whom they had beaten 3-2 in 1974 to win the same tournament. In familiar conditions of Delhi, JCT drew first blood. Coach PK Banerjee had to change things in the middle and he responded by bringing on Bhowmick in the second half. On the hour mark, Bagan equalised through their man of the season, Shyam Thapa. But JCT showed immense resolve to hang on to the 1-1 scoreline and forced a replay of the match. 

Next day, the Ludhiana-based club once again scored the opener. But this time their joy was short-lived as Bhowmick equalised soon after. Both teams were locked in an intense midfield battle before Akbar scored the winner to create history. 

Skipper Bhattacharya and coach Banerjee finally managed to achieve the feat which had almost become an obsession for a club that had dominated the Indian football scenario since independence. Thapa scored in all the finals and went on to become the highest-paid footballer in India back then.

After the phenomenal success on the pitch, Dhiren Dey went on to become the General Secretary of the club and in 1978, he managed to retain the core of the squad that would go on to win three trophies (CFL, Federation Cup and IFA Shield) once again. 

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