The Bengali Friction, Kolkata Derby and its rivalry diaries

The Bengali Friction, Kolkata Derby and its rivalry diaries

A derby that brings out the purest and most enduring form of rivalry between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, first played out 90 years ago is the highlight event of football in the City of Joy and for the games’ fan across the nation.

There are innumerable unique facts to observe when it comes to the tension that surfaces between these two old horses,  giant teams that define Indian football!


The origins…                            

Mohun Bagan established in 1889, acquired many players from the in and around regions as it was based at Kolkata, the capital of British India till 1911. Another Kolkata club called Jora Bagan took to the field in the mid 1920’s against Mohun Bagan without their star player Sailesh Bose who was discriminated against due to his East Bengali origins.

This move angered the club vice-president Suresh Chandra Chaudhuri who decided that he would form his own club- East Bengal. Chaudhuri and other co-founders of East Bengal hailed from the eastern region of Bengal which is modern-day Bangladesh, while Mohun Bagan’s supporters were from the western side of the state of Bengal.


The traditional names and food!

The fans of Mohun Bagan are known as the ‘Ghotis’ (to signify their over dependence on a metal pot) while supporters of East Bengal are called as ‘Bangals’. In that era, their mutual prejudice, mistrust and cultural conflict were reflected in every sphere of society spilling over from football to include food as well. So when Mohun Bagan players win a match against East Bengal they are felicitated with garlands made of specially ordered Galda Chingri (King Prawns) -symbolic of Ghoti food.  When East Bengal wins a match against Mohun Bagan they feast on Hilsa (Fish) – symbolic of Bangal food.


The Kolkata Derby is the only derby match which has made it to FIFA’s list of classic rivalries from a nation which is ranked above 100 in the FIFA World Rankings!                                        

The encounter is referred to as ‘Boro’ meaning Big in Bengali and rightly so as it is not only India’s biggest derby but also one of the most iconic world over. Over 1,00,000 people witness the derby live at the gigantic Salt Lake Stadium and the fans’ are abundantly passionate and hostile all at the same time. This prompted FIFA to include this fixture in its ‘List Of Classic Rivalries’.


Games turning violent!  

Numerous incidences of violence have surfaced when it comes to this historic encounter the most tragic one being on the 16th August 1980. During the derby, a scuffle between two opponent players Dilip Palit and Bidesh Bose spread into the galleries like fire and the ensuing violence claimed the life of sixteen young men. More recently a derby was abandoned half way in 2012 after Mohun Bagan’s Nabi got injured by a stone thrown by the team’s supporters itself, besides leaving 40 spectators injured.

So today, a high level of security, administrative arrangements and measures are taken to ensure a peaceful derby environment.


The Bhaichung Bhutia Factor:

India’s footballing gift to the world, the legend holds the record for most goals scored in the Kolkata derby. He is also attributed for easing out the tension between the two teams as he is one of the few who has the distinction of playing for both the clubs. One of the best derby moments was in the semi-final of the Federation Cup in 1997 when 131,000 fans witnessed East Bengal demolish the Mariners 4-1 thanks to a Bhaichung Bhutia hat-trick.


The numbers et numerics..  

300+ derby matches have been played out so far with an average of 3 matches being played out annually. While, East Bengal has emerged on top in more than 100 of them and Mohun Bagan in nearly 85 encounters. Its always been a goal galore affair, and history accounts for over 500 goals.


Tension easing away with time and same sponsor!                      

The Rivalry between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan is an integral part of Bengali Culture. With the passage of time the intensity has somehow faded away as newer generations are more accommodative and ambivalent. More so, there is also the fact that both the great clubs are today sponsored by the same group, United Breweries so this has also diluted some aspects of friction.


The Derby day is bound to draw in the largest number of crowds, and it will still enkindle some kind of deep passion within the Bengalis as the two clubs battle it out for supremacy.

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