On Thursday, Mohun Bagan went back in time, 99 years to the day of their most memorable achievement. The club released a first-day cover of the players who became the first Indian winners of the IFA Shield and felicitated their families.
Legend has it that English drums had fallen silent when Mohun Bagan's Abhilash Ghosh slammed in the winner against East Yorkshire Regiment in the 1911 IFA Shield final.
Players were warned of brutal retaliation from the British if they 'dared' to win but then it was a different day altogether, remembered a family member during the programme at the club. After that 2-1 win, Achintya Kumar Sengupta had written in Kallol Jug, a Bengali magazine, that "Mohun Bagan is not a football team. It is an oppressed country, rolling in the dust, which has just started to rise its head."
The victory, its contribution to uniting Bengal and to the Indian independence movement is part of history and the XI heroes revered ever since. On July 29th, they were honoured with the Mohun Bagan Ratna, the club's highest honour, kicking off their year-long centenary celebrations.
Emotions were high - most were overwhelmed while few still held a grudge of being ignored all this while. Till Wednesday, Shibdas Bhaduri, skipper of that team and scorer of Mohun Bagan's first goal, was the only player to have been bestowed that honour (2004). And though defender Bhuti Sukul's whereabouts couldn't be traced, the rest of the nine families had gathered earlier at Ghosh's daughter Ruma Guha's residence to commemorate the event. Come evening, however, they couldn't resist taking the plunge. "It was a day to forgive, forget and rejoice,” said Guha as she went up the stage to receive the Mohun Bagan Ratna on behalf of her father as thousands applauded under the shamiana erected on the club ground.
Also released was a first day cover by the Postal Department commemorating the 100th year of the historic event. An array of club flags, jerseys, paper-weights with the club emblem and portraits of the 1911 XI were on sale for the 10,000-odd who came to relive memories of another day. But none perhaps was as moved as former national security advisor and current Bengal governor M.K. Narayanan. "I have been a fan of Mohun Bagan as long as I remember. So before I address you as governor, allow me to ask you in joining me in chanting 'Jaya he' for Mohun Bagan." He got more than what he had asked for.
The Mohun Bagan XI: Hiralal Mukherjee; Bhuti Sukul, Sudhir Chatterjee, Manmohan Mukherjee, Rajen Sengupta, Nilmadhav Bhattacharya, Kanu Roy, Habul Sarkar, Abhilash Ghosh, Bijoydas Bhaduri, Shibdas Bhaduri (Captain).