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Mohun Bagan Athletic Club: A story soaked in inspiration

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By Arnab Mitra

At the crest of the revolutionary movement in India, the Mohun Bagan club was established on August 15, 1889 in Kolkata. Bhupendranath Basu, with the help of Kirti Mitra and Nilkanta Sen founded Mohun Bagan under the name Mohun Bagan Sporting Club on August 15, 1889. But on the first anniversary of the club, professor FJ Rowe, suggested that in the absence of angling and rifle shooting activities, the word “athletic” would be more appropriate for the club. From then on, India’s oldest football club has been known as Mohun Bagan Athletic Club.

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In 1893, the club started with its mission of achieving the Coochbehar Cup. After that it participated in various tournaments like Trades Cup, Gladstone Cup but was unsuccessful. Eleven years later, the club appointed Sailen Basu, a subedar major in the British Indian Army as their coach. Under his training, the first victory came in 1904 through Coochbehar cup. In the same year, the club reached the final of Gladstone Cup by defeating the reigning IFA shield winners Dalhousie by 6-1. The triumph of the club continued and they won the Trades Cup, Gladstone Cup and Coochbehar Cup in a successive order.

The people soon resembled the victory of the club as ‘their victory against the British empire’. The 1905 ‘participation of Bengal’ ignites a sense of nationalism among the Bengalis. It was the first time after Sepoy Mutiny that a large number of people participated in the freedom movement. It was on this note in 1911, when the first national team of India, Mohun Bagan reached the final of IFA Shield.

According to then Lt.Governor of Bengal, William Duke commented, “To see the final match, the British Government expects a crowd of one million people in Calcutta.” People from all corners of Bengal, Dhaka, Pabna, Rajsahi, Nadia came to Calcutta to see the final match on August 18, 1911. The bare footed Mohun Bagan team, lead by Shibdas Bhaduri won the match by defeating the British Club, East Yorkshire Regiment by (2-1).
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On the note of this famous victory, singer Karunanidhan Bandopadhyay composed a song which was published in September-October issue of Bengali magazine ‘Manasi’ in 1911. Here are glimpses of some of the famous lines of that song.

Jegeche aaj desher chele pathe loker bhir
[The sons of the soil have awaken: the streets are crowded]
Antopure futlo hasi banga-rupasir
[The bengali women have broken out in smiles]
Goal diyeche gorar gole bangalir aaj jeet
[We’ve scored against the whites; it’s a triumph of the Bengalis]
Akash cheye uthche udhao unmadonar geet
[The air is filled with song of rejoicing]
Aajker ei bijoy bani bhulbe nako desh
[The motherland will never forget today’s victory]
Sabbash sabbash Mohun Bagan khelecho bhai besh

[Hail!Hail! Mohun Bagan you have played very well]

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For the last 125 years the club becomes an inspiration for the Bengalis. It is the first football club of Asia, and it makes the country proud at several occasions since 1911. The captain of the first Indian Football Team in 1948 London Olympic was Talimeran Aao, from Mohun Bagan. This trend followed as the 1952 Helisinki Olympics and 1956 Melbourne Olympics were led by Bagan’s Sailen Manna and Samar Banerjee. Manna was also the captain of the jubilant Indian team of the 1951 Asiad followed by Chuni Goswami of the 1962 Asiad.

Professor Sumit Mitra, a die-hard fan of the Mohun Bagan club said, “Mohun Bagan is not only a football club, but it is an institution that inspired the nation to fight against the British and showed the people that the invincible Empire can be trounced.” [9]

[Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCZi4j9Hs_k]

Next Story

Know How Football is Protecting Tribal Girls in Jharkhand from Poverty, Trafficking and Child Marriage

"I was all awkward wearing the sports gear, and afraid of people judging me," she reminisced

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"Football has changed my stand in the society and without it, I would have simply dropped out of school like many other girls in my village," she said. Wikimedia Commons

As an uneducated tribal woman, Tetri Devi, 51, has seen many struggles, but seeing her youngest child, Anshu Kacchap, scale heights in football and visit the UK to play an inter-school football tournament has brought alive dreams, hopes and the zeal to continue her fight against the naysayers. Girls like Anshu are breaking the mould and smashing the glass ceiling with football.

Tetri revealed that when Anshu started playing football, everyone in the community, including her husband, was against the idea. “A girl wearing shorts and spending time playing football was not only looked down upon but was fiercely opposed by many. I remember being stopped by villagers concerned about me allowing the girl to play football and being called out for being a bad mother,” she said, adding that every snide comment she ignored and every advice she didn’t heed was “worth the trouble”.

With her husband unemployed for the larger part of the year, Tetri earns a living for her family of six – among them four daughters, of whom Anshu is the youngest – by selling Hadiya, a locally brewed rice beer in the nearby haats (rural market) in Pahan Toli, a remote village on the outskirts of Ranchi. Football has given her and her daughter a reason to dream again.

Anshu has been associated with OSCAR (Organization for Social Change, Awareness and Responsibility) Foundation’s football training programme, which runs from Chari Huzir on the outskirts of Ranchi, for five years now. She has not only represented Jharkhand in national tournaments but has also been one of the eight girls from Jharkhand who played in a UK Schools Tour, OSCAR ‘Kick Like a Girl’ in October last year.

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Not only has she inspired her elder brother to resume education, but also many other children in her village to become a part of the change that football has initiated in her life. Wikimedia Commons

The transformation through football wasn’t an easy one for the 200-odd girls who have taken to the sport around Irba and Kanke. Social stigma aside, acute poverty and challenges like the lack of even a single square meal, looming threats of early marriage and absence of support from their families have been a problem for these tribal girls, living about 30 kilometres from Ranchi. Through all the struggle, football has been their tool against fear, one kick at a time.

Shital Toppo, a student of commerce at a local college, said she was in disbelief when she found out she would be going to Russia in 2018 to watch a FIFA World Cup match as a part of the Football for Hope Movement, a project of FIFA to promote football as a medium for development and growth. She said the first time she went on the field, she couldn’t even manage to kick the ball for the first week.

“I was all awkward wearing the sports gear, and afraid of people judging me,” she reminisced. But it wasn’t all bad for Toppo, who played a friendly match with other members of the delegation from all over the world. She even befriended a representative from Brazil, Barbara.

“Football has changed my stand in the society and without it, I would have simply dropped out of school like many other girls in my village,” she said. Not only has she inspired her elder brother to resume education, but also many other children in her village to become a part of the change that football has initiated in her life.

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Social stigma aside, acute poverty and challenges like the lack of even a single square meal, looming threats of early marriage and absence of support from their families have been a problem for these tribal girls. Pixabay

For Tinky Kumari, 16, like hundreds of young girls in the area, an early wedding was supposed to celebrate her passing the matriculation examinations. Her elder brother, a school dropout himself, forced her to work as a farm labourer but football became her weapon of protest.

“My brother didn’t hesitate to beat me up just to stop me from playing football,” she recalled. She said her trip to the UK was a turning point as now everyone in her family has finally stopped talking about marrying her off. With her parents’ support, she is now continuing her education.

The narrative of how football empowered these village girls is a story that never fails to inspire. Helena Tete, 53, has been mentoring the girls since the early days of the programme. She has been a witness to the story of these girls and how football has empowered them to become what they are.

She recalled that when the training started in 2013, the girls taking part in the training were scared and hesitant. Their families were reluctant as they didn’t see a future in sports for them, she said. “Today, every time they play a national tournament or win a match, it is such a proud moment for us,” she added.

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The transformation through football wasn’t an easy one for the 200-odd girls who have taken to the sport around Irba and Kanke. Wikimedia Commons

Started in Chari Huzir in Kanke block, the programme by OSCAR foundation now covers eight different tolas (a group of villages). A few players from the training institute have made it to Under-15 and Under-17 teams of Jharkhand.

Though professional football will not be a part of the larger plan for many girls, for now they are rewriting their life through a sport that has helped them realise their worth in the world.

ALSO READ: Study: Winners Must Select their Friends Carefully to Enhance their Chance at Glory

“I started playing football when I was in class eight and I arrived on the field wearing a traditional skirt,” recalled Anshu. She thought people would make fun of her but instead, she became less conscious over time and mastered the sport.

She noted that the most important factor in her story was her mother’s decision to let her play. “As I teach young girls now, it feels good to be a person who others look up to,” added Anshu, who dreams of taking her football career forward along with higher studies. (IANS)