Red and Gold Letter Day: Revisiting East Bengal’s most iconic Kolkata derby victories
On the backdrop of the East Bengal win, let’s take a look at some of their greatest triumphs in the Kolkata derby:
(Note: This article was originally published on 13 August 2023 and has been updated on 20 January after East Bengal FC's win over Mohun Bagan SG in the Kalinga Super Cup)
East Bengal FC haven't enjoyed too many happy moments in recent times if you keep their illustrious history in context.
With Mohun Bagan Super Giant going from strength to strength, the Red and Gold brigade have suffered. However, 2023 somewhat restored the balance in Kolkata's great rivalry as East Bengal FC ended a four-year wait for a win in the Kolkata derby.
However, the Mariners exacted instant revenge in the Durand Cup final edging their rivals to the trophy. The Red and Gold brigade though are a much stronger outfit this season and will not shrink in the face of their stronger rivals and they showed it by beating Mohun Bagan SG 3-1 in the Kalinga Super Cup on Friday and knocking them out of the tournament.
In the backdrop of this famous win, let's take a look at some of East Bengal FC's greatest triumphs in the past
East Bengal 1-0 Mohun Bagan (1925 Calcutta Football League): The birth of a rivalry
During the 1920s, Mohun Bagan were Kolkata’s Indian team to beat. But an incident in 1920 that saw Jorabagan leave out one of their prominent players Sailesh Bose for his roots, saw club’s then vice-president Suresh Chandra Chaudhari who was displeased with the act, form a separate club, East Bengal FC. The club was formed to challenge Mohun Bagan and it triumphed in their very first official match.
In the 1925 Calcutta Football League, East Bengal who were playing just their second CFL match became the first team to inflict defeat on Mohun Bagan that season thanks to a goal from Nepal Chakravarty who scored the only goal of the game.
The rivalry gained prominence over the next few years and especially after the partition of India. Since the founders of East Bengal FC including Chaudhari belonged to the eastern part of Bengal, the people who had migrated from that region started associating with East Bengal and it became a symbol of their pride.
Mohun Bagan 0-1 East Bengal (1945 IFA Shield Final): Red and Golds do The Double
By 1945 East Bengal had become one of the strongest footballing forces in Kolkata having won the IFA Shield in 1943 and also the Calcutta Football League in 1942. However, Mohun Bagan regained their supremacy after winning the CFL in 1943 and 1944. The Red and Golds fought back to win the league in 1945 and faced their rivals Mohun Bagan in the IFA Shield final.
Two days before the match, Pramod Dasgupta, one of East Bengal’s best defenders was attacked by a group of masked men that ruled him out of the final. Fred Pugsley, the Anglo-Burmese star who was the Red and Gold brigade’s first foreign player then made the team at the last minute. As fate would have it, he scored the winning goal to hand East Bengal the IFA Shield and their first-ever double. It condemned Mohun Bagan to their third successive defeat in the IFA Shield final, a trophy that had eluded them since their first win in 1911.
East Bengal 5-0 Mohun Bagan (1975 IFA Shield Final): PK Banerjee’s team runs riot
A match that is fondly remembered by East Bengal fans to date thanks to the sheer brilliance of their team, the 1975 IFA Shield final is one of the highlights of East Bengal’s history.
After seeing their long unbeaten run against Mohun Bagan which lasted 1559 days, been ended in the Durand Cup in 1975, East Bengal locked horns with the Green and Maroon army in the IFA Shield final soon after. PK Banerjee’s team who had won their sixth consecutive CFL title showed their class as they ran out 5-0 winners thanks to a brace from Shyam Thapa and goals from Surajit Sengupta and Ranjit Mukherjee.
A few Mohun Bagan players had to spend the night hiding in a boat to escape the fan’s wrath. A Mohun Bagan fan also committed suicide after the game.
East Bengal 4-1 Mohun Bagan (1997 IFA Shield semi-final): A diamond beats the diamond
The 1997 Kolkata derby in the 1997 IFA Shield final is famous for more reasons than one. The match at the Salt Lake stadium in Kolkata recorded an attendance of over 130000 as the two sets of fans made it a spectacle.
Amal Dutta’s Mohun Bagan were a force to be reckoned with and their famous 3-2-3-2 formation with a diamond in the midfield that had helped them beat Churchill Brothers 6-0 in the previous round was attracting a lot of the pre-match talk. PK Banerjee’s East Bengal were much more inexperienced and were the underdogs in the derby. There was another pre-match subplot as Dutta was alleged to racially abuse East Bengal’s Bhaichung Bhutia.
Banerjee in turn placed faith in his young striker who came on as a second-half substitute and scored a hat-trick, the first in a competitive Kolkata derby game to hand East Bengal a 4-1 victory. The game is remembered as the one that made Bhutia as he went on to become one of the greatest Indian footballers of all time.
Mohun Bagan’s diamond formation was undone by a diamond that added sheen to Indian football for years to come.
East Bengal 4-0 Mohun Bagan (2015 Calcutta Football League)
In 2015, Mohun Bagan regained their place as the top club in India after winning the I-League title by edging defending champions Bengaluru FC in a thrilling title race.
However, there were no easy games against rivals East Bengal who always put their best foot forward against their rivals. In the CFL, the Red and Gold brigade had been dominant and were one point away from winning a record-equalling sixth straight CFL title when they took on Mohun Bagan who had no hopes of catching their rivals but could play a part in delaying their celebration.
However, it wasn't to be as Do Dong Hyun scored twice to lead the team to an emphatic 4-0 victory that matched the team’s CFL win margin over their rivals.
Mohun Bagan SG 0-1 East Bengal FC (2023 Durand Cup)
The 1-0 win by the Red and Gold brigade over their city rivals in the 2023 Durand Cup hasn't retained the same significance after the Mariners beat East Bengal FC in the final of the tournament to claim the honour, this derby win still has a big place in the hearts of East Bengal FC fans this brought to an end a four-year wait for a victory in a derby match for East Bengal FC.
Nandhakumar Sekar's goal proved to be the difference as Carles Cuadrat's side finished ahead of Mohun Bagan SG in the group in what proved to be a moral victory. The win which came at the very start of the Indian football calendar did prove to be a tonic for the Red and Gold brigade who have put forward a much-improved performance in ISL 2023-24 season.
Other notable wins
East Bengal 3-1 Mohun Bagan (2000 National Football League)
East Bengal 3-0 Mohun Bagan (2008-09 I-League)
East Bengal 3-2 Mohun Bagan (2018-19 I-League)