1911. A year of reckoning for the Bengalis in more ways than one. The accession of King George V in England was followed by a Durbar in Delhi in December to commemorate the occasion. Both the King and the Queen in person graced the occasion. Apart from pomp and grandeur, the occasion was marked by two important announcements. The first annulled the partition of Bengal that had come into effect in 1905 while the second transferred the capital from Calcutta to Delhi. If the first restored the self-respect of the Bengalis, the second shattered their prestige.
While these political acts were being enacted in Delhi at the end of the year, Bengalis could already boast of an emotional consolation by referring to what eleven young men among them did in an entirely different sphere of life a few months back. In July 1911, on the green football fields of the Calcutta maidan, the Mohun Bagan Club comprising eleven Bengali players defeated civil and military European sides one by one to win the Indian Football Association (IFA) Shield Football Tournament. This was hailed as a major blow to the prevailing conception of British invincibility and a victory of Bengali nationalism, masculinity and religion.
The IFA declared the encounter between East Yorkshire Regiment and Mohun Bagan as a charity match with admission charges of Rs.1 and 2 and scheduled it to be played at 5 p.m. at the Calcutta ground. By 2 o' clock 'the crowd was of unmanageable proportions' as 'Bengalis turned out in their thousands.' The phenomenal interest the match aroused among the natives becomes also clear from the black-marketing of tickets and betting on the result of the match ? unprecedented in the history of soccer in colonial India.
A two-rupee ticket fetched as much as fifteen, as noted by a few newspapers. Newspaper reports also hinted at gambling developing around the game in that context. In the absence of any permanent galleries or seating accommodation people helped themselves watch the match with devices such as wooden box for which fantastic rates were charged and paid. A few hundred chairs were however arranged for the European spectators by way of a contract with B.H. Smith & Co., the cabinet-makers.
People came down from distant Assam and Patna as well as from the eastern districts of Bengal. The kind of soccer fever that gripped people of Calcutta on the day of final is best explained by the fact that 'a special meeting called by an academic body like the Vangiya Sahitya Parishat for the same evening for condoling the death of Indranath Bandyopadhyay fell through, as recorded in the minutes, for poor attendance of members gone to see the football match'.
In order to cope with the expected rush of spectators, the East Indian Railway ran a special train from Burdwan to Howrah and back while additional steamer services brought more people from Rajgunj and Baranagar. Maidan-bound tramcars from Shyambazar and Chitpur were loaded to their 'utmost capacity'.
The area between the High Court and the Strand was choked with waiting carriages, hundreds more were parked on the two sides of the ground. The Empire, an evening paper, brought about an 'unprecedented journalistic enterprise' by installing a temporary telephone connection with the C.F.C. ground for relaying the different stages and the final result of the match instantly to the people all over Calcutta. As the Reuter's correspondent stated, 'there was a scene of extraordinary enthusiasm ... The vast majority saw nothing of the game.'
Yet they kept cheering as they got cues from watchers on the tree-tops and from willing volunteers who kept the multitudes 'informed of the progress of the match by flying kites of different colours' when one side or the other scored a goal.
Thus when Mohun Bagan actually entered the final of the IFA Shield, signs of a great mass awakening in Bengal were quite visible. People became obsessed with the dream of beating the ruling British at its own national game. The European residents too became conscious of this psychological head-on collision. The dream became reality when Mohun Bagan defeated the East Yorks 2-1 in that historic final of 29 July 1911.
Shibdas Bhaduri and Abhilas Ghosh scored the goals for the victorious team while Jackson netted one for the East Yorks. The Empire noted: " All honour to Mohun Bagan! Those eleven players are not only a glory to themselves and to their club and to the great nation which they belong, they are glory to the game itself".
It is said that, immediately after Mohun Bagan's victory in the Shield Final, an elderly Brahmin wearing a white dhoti and the sacred thread, pointing to the Union Jack fluttering on top of Fort William, the emblem of British military presence in Calcutta, asked Shibdas Bhaduri, captain of the winning team, 'Now as you have beaten the military side, when will you pull that down?' An amazed but emotional Shibdas replied: 'When Mohun Bagan will win the Shield next time.' Coincidentally , it was in 1947 when Mohun Bagan won the Shield again that the Union Jack was replaced by Indian tri-colour as India won freedom.
100 years later when we, the Bengalis, are celebrating the centenary of the historic Shield victory, it would be in the fitness of things if Mohun Bagan lifts the IFA Shield of 2011.
Mohun Bagan's way to Win : 18th IFA Shield 1911
10.7.1911: 1st round, Rangers ground
Mohun Bagan (Bijoydas Bhaduri 2, Abhilash Ghosh) 3-0 St. Xaviers
14.7.1911: 2nd round, Customs ground
Mohun Bagan (Shibdas Bhaduri 2) 2-1 Rangers
19.7.1911: 3rd round, Dalhousie ground
Mohun Bagan (Bijoydas Bhaduri) 1-0 Rifle Brigade
24.7.1911: Semi final, Dalhousie ground
Mohun Bagan (Jatindranath Roy) 1-1 Middlesex Regiment
25.7.1911: replay, Dalhousie ground,
Mohun Bagan (Jatindranath Roy, Shibdas Bhaduri, Habul Sarkar) 3-0 Middlesex Regiment
29.7.1911: Final, CCFC Ground,
Mohun Bagan (Shibdas Bhaduri, Abhilash Ghosh) 2-1 East Yorkshire Regiment
TWO TEAMS SQUAD - 1911 29th july
MOHUN BAGAN EAST YORKSHIRE
Bijay Das Bhaduri Martin
Habul Sarkar Haywood
Shibdas Bhadury(C) Jackson(C)
Kanu Roy Scully
Avilash Ghosh Birch
Nilmadhab Bhattacharyya Dixon
Rajen Sengupta Howard
Hiralal Mukherjee Cressey
Monomohon Mukherjee Clucas
Revrnd. Sudhir Chatterjee Neil
Bhuti Sukul Whitbe
AUTHOR: Kausik Bandyopadhyay : A historian,
Editor of Soccer & Society (Routledge)
Reader in History, West Bengal State University, India,
Associate Academic Editor, Soccer and Society (Routledge)
Former Fellow, International Olympic Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland
2001 Sailen Manna
2002 Dr.Talimeran Ao (Posthumous)
2003 Shibdas Bhaduri (Posthumous)
2004 Gostha Paul (Posthumous)
2005 Chuni Goswami
2006 Umapati Kumar (Posthumous)
2007 Dhiren Dey (Posthumous)
2008 Mohammad Abdus Sattar
2009 Samar Banerjee
2010 Hiralal Mukherjee, Bhuti Sukul,
Sudheer Chatterjee, Monmohan Mukherjee,
Rajen Sengupta, Neelmadhav Bhattacharya,
Kanu Roy, Habul Sarkar,Abhilash Ghosh,
Bijoydas Bhaduri (All posthumous)
2011 Pradip Kumar Banerjee
2012 Jarnail Singh (Posthumous)
2013 Balaidas Chatterjee (Posthumous)
2015 Karuna Sankar Bhattacharya (Posthumous)
2016 Syed Nayeemuddin