Updated: Jan 24
SC East Bengal are currently in the middle of their maiden Hero Indian Super League campaign, but the club's century-old legacy needs no reiteration, having transcended all national boundaries and garnered international recognition.
One of the most successful clubs in the history of Indian football, the Red-and-Golds have won the Calcutta Football League a record 39 times, the Rovers Cup 10 times, the Durand Cup a record 16 times, the IFA Shield a record 29 times, the Federation Cup 8 times, the National Football League thrice, and also three international titles (most by any Indian club)– the Wai Wai Cup, the ASEAN Cup and the San Miguel International Cup.
However, these facts are well-known and can easily be looked up on the internet. In this article, we present five relatively lesser-known facts about the Red-and-Golds. Let's see how many of these did you know before...
1. Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee's statue near Chowringhee was built by East Bengal Club
Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, one of the most prominent figures of the Bengal Renaissance, was a polymath. Besides being a notable educator, barrister, jurist and mathematician, he was the second Indian Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta, one of the oldest universities in the country.
A man with a towering personality, Sir Ashutosh's contribution to the sphere of education remains unparalleled. After he passed away on 25 May 1924, at the age of sixty, East Bengal Club took the initiative to organise a football match between Indians and Europeans at the Dalhousie ground to raise funds for establishing a statue in his memory at the crossing of Chowringhee and Chittaranjan Avenue, opposite Victoria House.
In his about-to-be-published book on the history of East Bengal Club, eminent football historian Gautam Roy writes, "He (the Maharaja of Santosh Sir Manmatha Nath Ray Chowdhury, one of the early patrons of the club), prevailed upon the IFA to organise a football match between Indians Vs Europeans at the Dalhousie ground. The match was held in August and Ray Chowdhury could raise Rs 4,854 from the game, which was largely attended by Indian fans. Another charity match was organised by the East Bengal president in 1926. That one yielded Rs 6,000. Ray Chowdhury, with the sum raised from the two matches, erected Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee’s bronze statue which was built by sculptor the late Debi Prasad Roy Chaudhury.
"This was a unique development in the annals of sport, not only in Bengal, but perhaps in the whole of India. It was a special function to mark the occasion, presided over by the Maharaja of Santosh with SC Talukdar being the chairman of the reception committee. The function was attended by citizens from all walks of life and Who’s Who of Calcutta."
The statue continues to be one of the prime landmarks of the city and is a befitting homage to Sir Ashutosh's enduring legacy.
2. East Bengal and Mohun Bagan used to share a common ground once!
The Kolkata derby is one of the most celebrated derbies in world football and the fierce rivalry between the Red-and-Golds and the Green-and-Maroons has entered folklore.
But did you know that the two arch-rivals used to share a common ground at one point in time? Hard to believe, but it's true.
After East Bengal won their maiden title, the Hercules Cup, at Shyam Square Park in 1920, Suresh Chandra Chaudhuri and Tarit Bhushan Roy (co-founders of the club) were in search of a training ground.
In those days, the existing IFA regulations made it mandatory for any two clubs to share a common ground. The responsibility of distributing grounds among the clubs lay with the Calcutta Police back then.
Despite an extensive search, Chaudhuri and Roy couldn't find a ground which they could share with another club because all grounds in the Maidan region were already occupied.
However, Roy came to learn that Mohun Bagan Athletic Club were sharing a ground south of CFC with a Behala-based club called National AC (founded by Sudhir Chatterjee, a member of Mohun Bagan's 1911 IFA Shield-winning team), which had ceased to exist by then.
Roy reported this discrepancy to the Police and demanded a share for East Bengal Club. Subsequently, the then Police Commissioner Charles Tegart acceded to the claim and ordered Mohun Bagan Athletic Club to share the ground with East Bengal Club from 1922.
This anecdote, too, finds a mention in Gautam Roy's book: "In those days the ground stretched east–west, not a happy situation for any team in any half of play. The ground also did not have covered stands. Yet, it was a ground to which the newly-born club could claim co-ownership. This was perhaps the most significant achievement of the club in the third year of its existence."
Mohun Bagan Athletic Club later relocated to the CFC ground, while East Bengal came to share their ground with Aryan Club, another century-old Kolkata-based club.
3. Emil Zátopek visited the club in 1953
Legendary Czechoslovak long-distance runner Emil Zátopek and his wife Dana visited East Bengal Club in 1953, on the club's annual Sports Day.
Zátopek was a luminary in the sporting firmament at that time, having won three gold medals (5,000 m and 10,000 m runs and the Marathon) at the 1952 Summer Olympics held in Helsinki. He also won a gold and a silver at the preceding London Olympics in 1948.
It was an honor for the club to be graced with Zátopek's presence when he was at the peak of his sporting career.
4. Only Indian club to reach the AFC Cup semi-finals undefeated
The Red-and-Golds hold the record of playing the most number of matches (55) in the AFC Cup by an Indian team. We're also the only Indian club to have appeared eight times in the competition.
The club's greatest achievement in this intracontinental competition came in the 2013 season when we became the first Indian team to reach the semi-finals undefeated, under the coaching of first Trevor James Morgan and later Marcos Falopa. We lost both legs of the semi-final to eventual champions Kuwait SC.
Our results in that edition of the AFC Cup are listed below:-
vs Selangor FA (Malaysia) - 1-0, 2-2
vs Tampines Rovers (Singapore) - 4-2, 2-1
vs Sai Gon Xuan Thanh (Vietnam) - 0-0, 4-1
Round of 16
vs Yangon United (Myanmar) - 5-1
vs Semen Padang (Indonesia) - 1-0, 1-1
vs Kuwait SC (Kuwait) - 2-4, 0-3
5. Only team to win the Federation Cup on maiden appearance
We are the only team to have won the Federation Cup on maiden appearance. The feat was achieved when we became joint winners with Mohun Bagan at Coimbatore in 1978, a year after the tournament's inception.
The fixture was played over two consecutive days, on 12 May and 13 May, but ended goalless on both occasions.