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East Bengal: the Sub- Regional Identity in Indian Football

The sub- regional identity was created in India football with the inception of East Bengal, the red and gold brigade, which provided an identity to the simple and spontaneous inhabitants of the eastern part of Bengal. Bangaals, the community displaced from its root in east Bengal, became emotionally attached with the club. The club gave birth to the great rivalry between ghoti and bangaal, i.e., Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, which is still prevailing. It can be said that these two clubs represent the division of Bengal on the basis of socio- cultural aspects.

East Bengal club was set up in 1920 due to a rift in the Jorabagan club. One of the prominent players of Jorabagan club, Shri Sailesh Bose, was dropped in a match against Mohun Bagan in Coach Behar Cup Tournamnet in 1920. It is relevant to mention that Shri Bose was the resident of east Bengal. In protest, Shri Suresh Chowdhury, the Vice- President of the club and the zamindar of Nagarpur of Mymensingh District, resigned from the club, He then convinced the eminent personalities of east Bengal, residing in Calcutta, to set up a new club. Shri Chowdhury, along with Professor Sarada Ranjan Roy and Rai Bahadur Tarit Bhusan Roy, played an instrumental role in setting up the East Bengal club on 1st August 1920.

In the year of inception, East Bengal emerged as the Champions of a six-a-side Hercules Cup organized at Shyam Park in North Calcutta. However, their football prowess was not sufficient to provide them a place in the Calcutta Football League because of the strict restrictions imposed on the number of Indian teams to participate in the League. In a kind gesture, the Raja of Tajhat, Shri Gopal Roy, withdrew his team and shifted his players to East Bengal to provide the club an opportunity to participate in the Second Division of the League. The club performed well and secured third position in the Second Division. In IFA Shield, East Bengal performed well, but was knocked out due to the partial decisions made by the referees. East Bengal defeated Aryans in the final of Sachin Shield. In its year of inception, East Bengal made its presence felt by winning seven trophies in different tournaments.

In 1925, East Bengal secured a place in the First Division of the Calcutta Football League and defeated Mohun Bagan to prove its worth. In 1926, the club was invited to participate in the Durand Cup in Simla. The success of the club attracted the reputed personalities of the then Calcutta to extend their support to the club. The Raja of Santosh, Manmatha Roy Chowdhury and Nalini Ranjan Sarkar were few of them. It can be argued that the emergence of East Bengal reduced the monopoly of Mohun Bagan in Indian football.

East Bengal club, which was set up due to a controversy in Jorabagan club, gave an identity to the rural gentry migrated from the eastern part of Bengal to Calcutta. The emotional attachment of this section of population was the driving force of the success of the club. This tradition is still prevailing. East Bengal, undoubtedly, earns a permanent place in the history of Indian football because of its success and sub- regional identity.

Ankan Banerjee

Lecturer, Naval Tata Centre of Excellence in Sports Management

Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management

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