In a previous article of our 'More Than A Club' series, we wrote about the birth of East Bengal Club. Needless to say, Suresh Chandra Chaudhuri's efforts towards establishing a new club wouldn't have been successful had he not been aided financially by the likes of the Maharaja of Santosh Sir Manmatha Nath Ray Chowdhury, Roy Bahadur Tarit Bhushan Roy and Banoarilal Roy.
The path was strewn with obstacles, but no obstacle was big enough to deter their ambitions. Later on, the baton of managing the club's affairs was passed on to former players like Jitu Mukherjee and Jyotish Chandra Guha, who performed their administrative duties with finesse.
It was during Banoarilal Roy's stint as secretary (1924 - 1941) that East Bengal qualified for the Calcutta Football League First Division for the first time ever in 1924. Even though the Red-and-Golds couldn't win any First Division trophy during that period, they finished runners-up in the CFL multiple times.
For instance, in 1932, they finished just one point behind eventual champions Durham Light Infantry. Durham LI amassed 27 points from their 18 matches that year, while East Bengal gathered 26. In 1933, Durham LI finished with 26 points from 20 matches, while East Bengal once again missed out by one point. Durham LI clinched three successive CFL First Division titles between 1931 and 1933.
The 1930s witnessed the meteoric rise of Mohammedan Sporting Club in the CFL. They won the title five times in a row between 1934 and 1938, and seemed a notch above the rest. Their closest competitors during that period were East Bengal, who finished second in 1935 and 1937, with only a point separating them (29 points from 22 matches) and Mohammedan (30 points from 22 matches) in 1935.
Notwithstanding this consistent run, East Bengal touched a nadir point when they were relegated to the CFL Second Division in 1928-29, following a last position finish in the First Division. However, they forced their way back into the First Division soon after by winning the Second Division in 1931.
Yes, it's true that Mohun Bagan became the first all-Indian side to win the IFA Shield and end the British stranglehold over the competition by defeating East Yorkshire Regiment 2-1 in the 1911 final. But it was Mohammedan who saw off British dominance in Indian football once and for all by virtue of winning the CFL First Division seven times between 1934 and 1941.
However, Mohammedan missed out on the title in 1939 because they, along with East Bengal and Kalighat, refused to participate in the CFL as a mark of protest against the Indian Football Association. Mohammedan did manage to win the title the very next season though, continuing their golden run.
The Mohammedan juggernaut was eventually halted by East Bengal in 1942 when the Red-and-Golds left the Black Panthers behind to win their maiden CFL First Division title.