Nine Stories from Mohun Bagan's Post 1911 Shield Era till 1925 | Why Mohun Bagan Ep. 4

Nine Stories from Mohun Bagan's Post 1911 Shield Era till 1925 | Why Mohun Bagan Ep. 4

This article is the third of the multiple articles to be published under the ‘Why Mohun Bagan’ feature series by MBFT.

Read Part 1 here: The Origin Story of Mohun Bagan

Read Part 2 here: The First Two Decades of Mohun Bagan

Read Part 3 here: The 1911 Legacy of Mohun Bagan 

I. Englishmen's Spot Fixing Caught.

Mohun Bagan’s popularity skyrocketed after conquering the 1911 I.F.A. Shield. The club now became synonymous with Bengali unity and the National Struggle for Independence. After the final, The Mussalman wrote: “The members of the Muslim Sporting Club were almost mad and rolling on the ground with joyous excitement on the victory of their Hindu brethren.”

The Englishman commented “Mohan-Bagan has succeeded in what the Congress and the Swadeshiwallas have failed to do so far to explode the myth that the Britishers are unbeatable in any sphere of life.” And it was obvious that such a feat did not go down well with the colonisers.

Their anger, jealously and hatred eventually transpired into a case of blatant spot fixing in the I.F.A. Shield of 1912. This time around, they ensured that the referee wasn’t fair and would favour the English, which in this case were Calcutta FC. In his book Club er naam Mohun Bagan (The Name of the Club is Mohun Bagan), Shantipriyo Bandopadhyay elaborates how two completely legal goals by Mohun Bagan were declared offside by the referee.

This atrocity got proven through motion pictures captured by Messrs. J.F. Madan & Co. where it was evident that on both occasions where the goal was denied, the Mohun Bagan attackers were totally onside. Bagan lost that match against Calcutta FC 2-1 and were sent out early in the 1912 I.F.A. Shield.

Such blatant discrimination left captain Shibdas Bhaduri in a great sorrow. Being a model of honesty and a man of principle, he was so saddened by such unfairness that, even being in the peak of his prowess, he took the decision to renounce captaincy. Eventually he left the club. Mohun Bagan got a new captain, Habul Sarkar. He led the team for the next three years.

II. A Second Chance. A Legend's Dance.

Gostha Pal's picture and stamp (Collected from

Bagan’s Shield winning Centre half Rajen Sengupta, along with Abhilash Ghosh, while playing a match in Bhagyakul in Eastern Bengal, not far from his birthplace, in the Mukundalal Roy Memorial Shield, spotted a certain teenager in the opposition team playing quite well in defense.

Rajen learnt that this 16 year old boy lives in Kolkata and is on a visit to his ancestral home during holiday. Rajen asked the boy to contact him once he reaches Kolkata if he is interested for a trial with Mohun Bagan. Few years back, the young boy like thousands of Bengalis was at the Maidan to witness Bagan win the 1911 I.F.A. Shield Final along with his uncle. The name of this boy was Gostha Pal. 

Gostha Pal’s trial for Bagan in an Asanullah Cup match against Dalhousie did not go very well. He started as a Right Half, his preferred position, but struggled with confidence and committed many errors. He wasn’t prepared at all. He had literally met the other players for the first time and he wasn’t even informed he was set to play on that day. Moreover, the ground was slippery due to rain.

Still Club officials and players were not convinced and were considering handing him a rejection, but it was Bagan’s other back Bhuti Sukul who kept his faith on young Gostha and gave him a second chance, that too against the Black Watch, who had won the Calcutta Football League the year before.

This time he wasn’t played as a Right Half. An important departure a year after the 1911 Shield win happened to be that of Left Back Reverend Sudhir Chatterjee. Sudhir’s absence created a gaping hole in Bagan’s defense. It was becoming quite a difficult task to find an adept replacement. Bhuti Sukul this time asked Pal to play alongside him in the Left Back position.

Actually that was Rajen’s grand vision all along. The club was desperate to find a Sudhir Chatterjee replacement after he announced his retirement. Rajen saw Pal’s stature, ball winning ability and long ball accuracy to suit the requirements of the left back.

Gostha, himself surprised at his inclusion, repaid the faith put on him by his defensive partner and produced a defensive masterclass, ensuring a clean sheet to Bagan’s name in that match against the Black Watch. Gostha is famously known to have said that his footballing career, which spanned 23 years at Bagan, would have ended that day had not Sukul encouraged and reassured him to play in that match.

III. The Story behind the CFL Promotion.

Club Crest of Measurer's Club (Courtesy: Measurers Club Facebook)

It was in 1914 that, for the very first time, two native clubs were included into the Calcutta Football League’s Second Division. Along with Mohun Bagan, it was Dukhiram Majumdar’s Aryan FC who were welcomed on the merit of winning the Trades Cup the year prior.

Mohun Bagan ended their first ever CFL 2nd division campaign on third position, totalling 22 points from 16 games, scoring 27 while conceding 16 goals. The 2nd division champions were 91st Highlanders’ B team while Measurers were on level points with Bagan but with a superior goal difference.

However, the 91st Highlanders B team, being a reserves team, was ineligible to take part in the CFL 1st division according to the rule set by the I.F.A. that the reserves team of a club already playing in the 1st division couldn't take part simultaneously along with the main team. Hence, a playoff match between the Measurers and Mohun Bagan was arranged.

The first match ended in a draw, hence a replay was arranged. Measurers’ goalkeeper D Silva became their hero in both the matches as his acrobatics thwarted most of the plethora of Bagan attacks. On the other end, Measurers’ attackers managed to find the back of the net twice, whereas Bagan could score only once, and thus won the match 2-1, getting promoted.

Now why a playoff match was organised in the first place can be questioned, as Measurers’ had finished second in the CFL 2nd division owing to a greater GD over Bagan. A possible assumption for that has been that sinc­e Measurers Club was established by the Portuguese Customs Officers of the Kolkata shipyard in 1902 (although the players were not Portuguese, rather comprised of natives), the British, who were direct colonial competitors to the Portuguese, did not prefer to have a “Portuguese” club to be in the CFL 1st division, hence tried to place a barrier of sorts through this playoff match, which still was won by Measurers.

However, just before the start of the 1915 CFL 1st division, 62 Co. and G.A. (other club names instead of 62 Co. & G.A. have been mentioned too in other sources but the rest of the events stay common) announced they were not prepared enough to take part in the 1st division and asked the I.F.A. to let them take part in the 2nd division. I.F.A granted the request, and to fill their void, Mohun Bagan were awarded the promotion to the 1st division.

Mohun Bagan were in a trophy drought after championing the I.F.A. Shield in 1911. It would continue for another year as Bagan only finished fourth in their first ever CFL 1st division campaign. Along with that, they got eliminated in the Semis in the I.F.A. Shield, Trades and the Cooch Behar Cup. Bagan played their first CFL game against Calcutta F.C. on May 15, 1915, which was a goalless affair.

Bagan’s playing XI against Calcutta in their first ever CFL match was Hiralal Mukherjee, Gostha Pal, Bhuti Sukul, Habul Sarkar, Ghosh, Sanyal, Ray, Chatterjee, Daffadar, M. Bhaduri and Bhattacharya.

Another important milestone for the club in 1915 was the team shifting their ground within the Maidan from their then shared ground with Presidency College to a ground North East to Fort William, this time shared with National A.C. Mohun Bagan played out of there until 1963 where they shifted their base to their current location, opposite to Eden Gardens, beside Calcutta F.C.

The drought finally got over in 1916 when Mohun Bagan won the Cooch Behar Cup again, for the fifth time now. They improved on their CFL position and came quite close to becoming the Premiers, but had to settle for the Runners Up position, behind Calcutta FC, who became the first local team to become the CFL players, although the players of course were English.

IV. A Legend Intrigued by the 1911 Shield.

Umapati Kumar (Modified Image Sourced from Mohun Bagan Club Website)

In 1916, a promising muscular 18 year old left inside forward arrived at Mohun Bagan, who would go on to become a legendary servant of the club, not only during, but also as an able administrator in his later days. 

Born in Chagram, a village near the town of Bardhaman, around a hundred kilometers North-West of Kolkata, Umapati Kumar’s family had to migrate to Bheriadanga in the Purnea district of modern day Bihar, due to a transfer of his father who was an advocate.

Umapati secured first division in his matriculation exams. During an inter-school tournament in Kishanganj, his team lost 10-0 to another school, all of the 10 goals being scored by one boy, who happened to be none other than Syed Abdus Samad, another Maidan legend famously known as the Wizard of the East. 

Umapati Kumar found interest in football when he was in his 6th standard when Mohun Bagan won the 1911 I.F.A. Shield. He got admission in Scottish Church College in 1916 with help from his own brother who was a 4th year student there and also with that of Abhilash Ghosh (yes, the same Abhilash Ghosh who scored the winning goal in the 1911 Shield Final), who helped Umapati move into the Ogylvy Hostel of the college after getting to know Umapati’s football abilities.

Umapati Kumar joined Mohun Bagan on the same year, when he was noticed by Debendranath Guin during a match between Scottish Church and Jorabagan Club at which he was present. In the 1916 Asanullah Cup final, although Mohun Bagan lost to Nagendra Sarbadhikari’s Sovabazar Club, Umapati’s gameplay was widely appreciated.

After his illustrious playing career, he eventually became the Vice President of Mohun Bagan between 1959 to 1979 and the President of Mohun Bagan between 1980 to 1990. He had multiple successful businesses and had acquired quite a significant fortune, yet had shown immense humility. He travelled to the club through public transportation, specifically the 3:10 pm Tram No. 24 from Ballygunge depot to Esplanade.

Mohun Bagan continued winning minor trophies in local tournaments but again started missing out on the big fishes for the next few years. They were eliminated by Middlesex in the 1917 I.F.A. Shield. Bijoydas Bhaduri became the club captain from 1916 till 1918 after which he left the club.

Prakash Ghosh became the next captain from 1919 to 1920, after which the band got passed onto the sturdy arms of Gostha Pal for nearly the next six years. Mohun Bagan came close again in the CFL 1st division in 1920, finishing Runners Up with 25 points from 16 games, only two points behind Calcutta FC, who then won their third CFL.

V. Subedar Major on Duty; Another Shot at Shield

Balaidas Chatterjee (in extreme right) with the Indian team at the 1948 London Olympics (Courtesy: The Hindu via Wikipedia)

As the effects of the First World War started to spill onto the subcontinent, Mohun Bagan’s Secretary Subedar-Major Sailendranath Basu had to serve in the war hence the club had to appoint his younger brother Dwijendranath Basu who worked without drawing any salary. In 1924, for a year, Debendra Nath Guin became Joint Secretary. Then the position of the General Secretary was brought in and Dwijendranath Basu served that position till 1932.

Mohun Bagan came close in the I.F.A. Shield again in 1920. After getting past the first few rounds, Bagan reached the Semis. Their opponents were Kumartuli. A win was expected given their form. People started mentally preparing for another final appearance and a potential second win.

But shockingly, Kumartuli did not turn out to be as easy an opposition people thought of. With exceptional performances from Habul Mitra, Goalkeeper T Dey and Tulsi Dutta, Kumartuli held on to a 2-1 lead till the final whistle. It was yet another painful exit for Mohun Bagan.

Kumartuli, however could not conquer the final hurdle. They lost 2-0 to Black Watch in the 1920 I.F.A. Shield Final. A year later, Mohun Bagan were Runners Up yet again in the 1921 CFL 1st division, with Dalhousie being the Premiers. Bagan finished on 24 points from 16 games, Dalhousie only had 2 points more. In a high voltage league match with Calcutta FC that season, the large crowd got out of control and the match had to be abandoned.

In 1921, Balaidas Chatterjee joined the club at 21 years of age. The Hooghly district born continued to play for six years at the club as a sturdy center half. He went on to become the Football Secretary of the club. Under him, for the first time, a junior Mohun Bagan team was established in 1944.

Four years later he was a trainer of the Indian National Football team for the London Olympics, where a brilliant display against France where India lost only 2-1 drew praise from Princess Margaret, the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II. He mentored players like Sailen Manna, Sheoo Mewalal and P.K. Banerjee and won the Santosh Trophy as Bengal’s head coach six times between 1949 and '59.

Some other important players who had joined the club in this post I.F.A. Shield era were Moti Sengupta (’19-’29), Mani Das (’17-’24), Rupchand Daffadar (’12-’19), Prakash Ghosh (’17-’20) and S. Ghosh (’17-’20). By 1918, the last of the Shield Winning ‘Immortal’ XI had left the club.

 VI. The First Few Matches against East Bengal

News report, by The Statesman, of first official Kolkata Derby, that took place on 28 May 1925. (Courtesy: East Bengal Archives via Wikipedia)

In 1920, East Bengal club was formed. Jorabagan’s Club President Suresh Chandra Chowdhury, sensing discrimination towards players whose roots were in Eastern Bengal, left and formed his own club to represent the migrants from East Bengal who were at times mistreated and looked down upon by the Western Bengalis.

The sociopolitical divide was a perfect recipe to create quite a significant rivalry when it came to Mohun Bagan and East Bengal facing each other in the game of football, which was by then obviously a matter of immense pride and self-respect for every Bengali.

However, such an intense cultural rivalry was created only after the large scale migrations post 1947. Mohun Bagan faced East Bengal for the first time in the semi-final of the 1921 Coochbehar Cup, on the 8th of August. It ended in a goalless draw. Quite a poetic start to this match indeed, given how ‘inseparable’ these two clubs would become, how the mutual push would sustain both of them to complete more than a century of existence in flying colours.

Mohun Bagan won the replay 3-0. However, later that year, the two clubs faced each other again. This time in the very final match of the Khagendra Shield. East Bengal scored two goals, while Bagan scored only one. The club established just the year prior had just won a trophy over Mohun Bagan.

Such a close contest generated quite the interest in the 1925 Calcutta Football League match between the two. Mohun Bagan before entering the game were one of the two yet undefeated clubs of that edition along with the 14th Heavy Battery.

However, that streak was about to end. As The Statesman writes, “N. (Nepal) Chakravarty scored the winning goal, and it was quite the effort. A swift, low drive struck the upright and Chakravarty got his foot to the ball as it rebounded. The shot beat the goalkeeper who was on the ground.”

Mohun Bagan got the greater share of chances that match, but East Bengal defended exceptionally well, awarding themselves the win in the first major derby. Bagan’s XI that match was Bhaduri, Pal, R. Das, Sur, Chatterjee, S. Bose, S. Ghosh, R. Ganguli, S. Das Gupta, Kumar and K. Bose.

 VII. Near Wildness at Bombay & A New President

Left: Rovers Cup (Collected from; Right: Rajendranath Mookerjee (Courtesy: By Unknown author - The Modern Review, July 1933, via Wikipedia)


Although Mohun Bagan had not won a major trophy for a while now, it did not mean they had fallen off altogether. They were consistently reaching semi finals, finals and ending up in the runners up position in the CFL which continued to increase their popularity throughout India and even abroad. In 1922, Mohun Bagan played a match against a team which represented the Indian migrants based in South Africa. 

The Rovers Cup was the third oldest football competition launched in India in 1890 after the Durand and the Trades Cup. Mohun Bagan got its first invitation to Bombay in 1923 to take part in the prestigious tournament. And the Mariners took Bombay by storm. 

The Bagan Brigade knocked out one team after the other, be it native or foreign and found itself in the Rovers Cup final in its very first outing in the competition. However, Bagan were absolutely clueless against the 2nd Battalion, Durham Light Infantry and had to concede four goals after taking the lead.

It was a heartbreaking 4-1 defeat at the final step on the staircase and the hopes for creating yet another incredible underdog story to embarrass the British came crashing down. The next time Mohun Bagan reached the Rovers final was in 1948, and their first ever Rovers Cup Championing happened to be in 1955.

In the same year, Mohun Bagan reached the final of the I.F.A. Shield again. The opponent? The all-English team of Calcutta FC. Players like Brooks, Benett, Mayer and Brook had brought Calcutta its golden generation of players. They had won the CFL in 1920, 1922 and 1923, and the I.F.A. Shield in 1922, with a Runners Up finish in 1921.

Even such a brilliant team, considered one of, if not the best in the country at that time, couldn’t help but exploit an unfair advantage on the final of the 1923 I.F.A. Shield. Mohun Bagan still used to play barefoot, and thus couldn’t give any fight in rainy slippery conditions. It had rained tremendously on that day.

Had it been any booted opponent, the English referee most likely would have postponed the match, but this was too good of an opportunity to miss. The match was not rescheduled, and Mohun Bagan lost 3-0 on the muddy pitch. Mohun Bagan had lost its second entry into the I.F.A. Shield final.

The morning after, The Statesman wrote in its match report: ‘Mohun Bagan’s game fight on sodden ground – Good play impossible’. The newspaper asked how the game was allowed to take place in such poor conditions.

Tragedy struck on the 13th of September, 1924. Bhupendranath Bose, the first President of Mohun Bagan breathed his last. He was 65 years old at the time of his death, and served the club for 35 long years. The helm of Presidency was taken up by Sir Rajendranath Mookerjee. Rajen Mookerjee was a pioneering Indian industrialist who had found Martin & Co. along with Sir Thomas Acquin Martin in 1890.

The company built waterworks in Palta and were the contractors for historically significant  buildings like the Esplanade Mansion, Standard Chartered Building, South Eastern Railway Headquarters, Tipu Sultan Mosque, the Ujjayanta Palace in Tripura, and most famous of them all, the Victoria Memorial at the heart of the Maidan whose work was completed in 1921, three years before Rajen Mookerjee became the President of Mohun Bagan.

Rajen Mookerjee had taken over another company named Burn & Co. and this company happened to build the St. Xaviers’ College, the Belur Math (the headquarter of the Ramakrishna Mission founded by Swami Vivekananda) and the Grand Hotel. These two companies went on to merge in 1946 and continued to build iconic architecture throughout the city. Due to such influence in quite literally shaping the former British Raj Capital, Kolkata is also sometimes referred to as Martin Burn City.

VIII. A Call to Shimla. Answered with Might.

Dagshai army barracks and parade ground circa 1918 (Courtesy: By Geoff soper - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikipedia)

In 1925 came a rather unexpected invitation. An invitation to become the first Civilian club to take part in the oldest football competition in India. The Durand Cup. Till then only military teams were allowed to take part in the Durand Cup. Mohun Bagan ended that tradition by accepting the invitation.

The Durand Cup was founded by Sir Henry Mortimer Durand. It is said that Sir Henry, then of 38 years of age, had been in ill health. After realising the role of sport in helping people to stay fit, he wanted to contribute to popularising sport. He became particularly fond of football, and how it helps build bonds between the players along with the physical demand, and sponsored the organisation of a football tournament.

The first edition of the Durand Cup was organised in Dagshai, near Shimla. The Cup venue was shifted to Delhi in 1940. The origin of the name Dagshai is theorised to have come from Dagh-e-Shahi, meaning Royal mark. During the era of the Mughals, a mark was put on criminals to easily distinguish them and were sent to the area to contain them at a location, hence the name. The British built a sanatorium at Dagshai for tuberculosis patients, a Central Jail and transformed the village into a cantonment.

After winning over the Royal Berkshire Regiment in the first round, York Lancaster Regiment in the second and Essex Regiment in the third, Mohun Bagan found themselves in the semi-finals against strong opposition. The Sherwood Foresters. Mohun Bagan could not move past Sherwood and were eliminated. Sherwood went on to Champion the Durand that year, winning 3-1 over Worcestershire Regiment. Mohun Bagan yet again had shown their worth in front of the British.

IX. The Iconic Sail Boat on Bagan's Logo would have never been there if not for this club!

Mohun Bagan changed its logo from the Royal Bengal Tiger to the Sailing Boat (Courtesy: Mohun Bagan Archive via X)


In 1918, the Marwaris of Kolkata established a club called the Marwari Club. In 1932, they started playing in the 4th division of the CFL. Five years later, they finished Runners Up in the 4th division, thus qualifying for the 3rd division. In 1942, they came second in the 3rd division and entered the 2nd division.

Six years later, they championed the 2nd division and secured entry into the first, and renamed them as Rajasthan Club. For some context, the Marwaris originally hail from Rajasthan. A significant portion migrated to Kolkata throughout the 19th and 20th Century for business opportunities.

In 1955, they achieved an incredible feat of winning the I.F.A. Shield, making them the second team to break the Shield dominance of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal post independence after the Indian Culture League two years prior. Rajasthan had already fared Runners Up in the I.F.A. Shield in 1952.

The other teams to win the I.F.A. Shield post independence except the Big Three of Kolkata have been Bengal Nagpur Railway (1963), JCT (1996), Mahindra United (2006, ’08), Churchill Brothers (2011), United SC (2013, ’15), Tata Football Academy (2016), Pune City FC (2017) and Real Kashmir (2020, ’21).

They secured a place in the Maidan in 1962, and qualified for the CFL Super League in 1970. A former Secretary of this club, Jagmohan Dalmia even became the President of the BCCI, the council governing cricket in the country.

Now back to the Marwari Club of 1918. When the club got founded, their logo seemed to be heavily inspired from Mohun Bagan’s logo. Back when Bagan’s logo featured a Royal Bengal Tiger sitting in front of a palm tree. Back then, Bagan did not do any formal copyright registrations for their logo, thus they could only request Marwari Club to change the similar logo which was confusing many fans.

However, Marwari Club didn’t respond to Bagan’s requests, hence Bagan decided to change their own logo. Ships and boats were the lifeline of Kolkata. In fact the city itself was established by aggregating a few fishing villages.

All trade which transformed those humble villages into the bustling metropolis which it is today happened on the Hooghly river, beside which the sprawling city expanded. Moreover,  on the other side of the river, many important industries were established. Thus, the Bagan officials decided on portraying that significant part of Kolkata’s culture on their logo in the early 1920s.

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