Dr. Anjan Kumar Das : Why does one become a fan of a particular club and not another? When I was a kid, I was most influenced by my maternal uncles. My two youngest uncles, who influenced me the most were fanatical East Bengal supporters. It would have been natural for me to support that team. However I was ever since I can remember a Mohun Bagan fan. I first saw a Mohun Bagan team play in Krishnanagar where I had gone for our Easter holidays. It was a game of hockey, I do not remember who the opponents were, but I do remember that I saw Gurbux Singh play for the first time. He was then at the peak of his powers and would captain India in the next Olympics.
The first time I saw Mohun Bagan play football was in 1968. I was then all of ten years old and it was a tournament that the Amrita Bazar Patrika newspaper (now deceased) had organized as part of its centenary celebrations. Mohun Bagan played Mohammadean Sporting, a formidable power in those days and drew 2-2, a dark hued genius called Pungam Kannan saved the day for Mohun Bagan with a last minute goal. The next day or perhaps one day later, I went again for my first derby match, the match that is the holy grail of Indian football: Mohun Bagan vs East Bengal. Mohun Bagan won and I was for ever a Mohun Bagan fan. The next year I remember the Shield ( IFA shield) final where Pranab Ganguly scored a brace tearing down the left flank and ripping the East Bengal defence to shreds
Little did I know that it was the last victory we would see for a long 7 years. From the next year East Bengal started its chain of victories which left us dispirited and in despair as we lost and lost and lost. There was a rare victory in the Durand cup where East Bengal was slain, but in Calcutta the barren run continued.
Then came the autumn of 1975. The IFA shield final. And East Bengal scored five times against Mohun Bagan. I was then a medical student and I cried all the way home and did not eat for one whole day . This was a humiliation that was unbearable.
The next year came revenge: Md Akbar scored in the 17th second in a move that still remains green in my memory. Kick off: Habib to Prasun, long through to Ulaganathan who raced down the right flank to send in a perfect center to Akbar whose header went in. We had scarcely settled in. The rest of the match belonged to East Bengal and I died a thousand deaths as the Mohun Bagan goal was saved from disaster so many times that we lost count. That was the coming of age of Subrata Bhattacharya, the “Mohun Baganer ghorer chele”.
We celebrated for two days without stopping. We celebrated in the streets, at homes, in addas and in college. The humiliations that we had had to undergo for the past seven years became history. Since then there have been swings in fortune, but Mohun Bagan , have often had better of the exchanges.
Over the past decade or so, I did not follow the fortunes of my club so minutely. But even today, whenever Mohun Bagan loses, I am reluctant to open the newspapers the next day. And it still leaves me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and I am back to my school days when all our moods were dictated by the fortunes of Mohun Bagan.
But the 5 goal humiliation remained. Until 2009, that is. I was travelling back from Jakarta where I had gone to speak at a conference. But to a long time fan the derby is always in the back of your mind, whether you are in Jakarta or Jadu Babu’s bazaar! As soon as I got back, I got online and then after 34 years I exorcised the ghosts of 1975. Thank you Karim Bencharifa. Thank you Edeh Chiddi. I wish I was at The Krirangan last night, and I am not ashamed to say that tears came to my eyes as I thanked the stars that I lived to see this day. Revenge is truly a dish best eaten when cold!!!
By Dr. Anjan Kumar Das (Taylor’s University School of Medicine)