Humans have with great pleasure divided themselves into several sets basis caste, religion, region,language, sex, etc. But, to add to this every Kolkatan has further divided themselves into two sets – East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, the two most prominent football clubs in the city.
Such is the love for the game in the city that a East Bengal guy falling in love with a Mohun Bagan girl can and have formed the backdrop of several movies, plays and stories.
But to understand and value any love story, it is important that we first know how it all begun!
So, here is the flashback…
It all begun in the year 1877 – Kolkata’s romance with football. Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikary,the ‘father of Indian soccer’ introduced soccer as a teenager in the year 1877 at Hare School in North Kolkata . He mobilized his classmates and started playing the game at the Hare School compound. Attracted by the enthusiasm of the boys in the school, the European teachers of the school & adjacent colleges encouraged Nagendra Prasad and his companions to promote the game among students in and around Kolkata . The Boys’ Club, founded by Nagendra Prasad around this time, was the first Indian initiative at football organization.
Later Nagendra Prasad formed a series of sporting clubs in the 1880s, one of the first being the Wellington . Afterwards, he founded the Sovabazar Club, one of the leading sports institutions of colonial India.
In the year 1893, Indian Football Association (IFA) was founded. Amongst the founders was former England international Elphinstone Jackson. In its formative years Englishmen dominated the executive committee of the IFA. In fact the only Indian representative was Kalicharan Mitra from the Sovabazar Club. Methodical organisation and sustained efforts to promote the game in Bengal , made the IFA the premier football body in the country in the early decades of the 20th century.
After the formation of IFA, an annual football competition named IFA Shield was started in 1893. IFA Shield is the fourth oldest club cup competition in the world after the English and Scottish FA cup’s and the Durand Cup. In 1898, IFA started the Calcutta Football League. This league is the oldest league in Asia and one of the oldest in the world.
During the starting years of IFA Shield & Kolkata Football League mainly the British Clubs of colonial India used to participate. In 1911, the Mohun Bagan Club caused a stir by becoming the first Indian team to lift the IFA Shield, a tournament previously won only by British teams based in India.
Ever since Mohun Bagan defeated the East Yorkshire Regiment in that historic IFA Shield final in 1911, football became a way of life for most of the Kolkatans or rather Indians and to a great extent, Bengal became the home of Indian football.
And like they say, from there on Kolkata and Football lived happily ever after…