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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]

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