East Bengal are one of the very few sporting associations in India with a socio-ethnic identity.
The club was founded on August 1, 1920, in Kolkata, Bengal, after allegations of ethnic discrimination against players descending from the eastern part of the then-Bengal Presidency, British India.
East Bengal have become the identity of migrants who settled in India during the Partition of India in 1947 and the Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.
The Red and Golds, as they are known as, turned 100 on August 1, 2020, and here, we take a look at the top ten defining moments in the history of one of Indian football’s greatest clubs.
#10 Eight consecutive Calcutta Football League titles (2010-2018)
After the 2012 Federation Cup win and a semi-final finish in the AFC Cup 2013, the Red and Golds have been a dominant side only in the local league.
They won the Calcutta Football League on eight consecutive occasions from 2010 to 2018 – a record. The Red and Golds are the most successful side in the city league with 39 titles to their name.
#9 Three consecutive IFA Shield titles (1949-51)
East Bengal won the IFA Shield three consecutive time from 1949-1951. Such dominance paved the way for the club to become the first Indian football club to be invited for a tour in Europe by the Soviet Union and Romania.
East Bengal were also recommended as the best football club of India by the then-President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
#8 Six consecutive Calcutta Football League titles (1970-75)
After a three-year drought in the city league, the club embarked on a remarkable journey in the Calcutta Football League.
By putting aside their main rivals in Mohammedan SC and Mohun Bagan, East Bengal clinched the Calcutta Football League in six consecutive football seasons under Mohammed Hussein, Swaraj Ghosh, and PK Banerjee.
The era was also the beginning of East Bengal’s best years in Indian football.
#7 Beating Mohun Bagan 4-1 in the Federation Cup semi-final (1997)
With PK Banerjee at the helm, East Bengal were rebuilding from a remotely unstable phase. The Red and Golds had just won the Federation Cup after a gap of 12 years and were looking to make it two in two.
They were up against Mohun Bagan in the semi-finals. Amal Dutta, the Mohun Bagan head coach, has already successfully implemented the 3-4-3 diamond system.
What looked like an equally balanced game turned into a 4-1 rout in front of 1,31,000 fans at the Salt Lake Stadium. Nazim-ul-Haque scored the opener, followed by a Bhaichung Bhutia hattrick.
#6 Beating Mohun Bagan 5-0 in the IFA Shield final (1975)
After winning ten trophies in the last two seasons, PK Banerjee’s East Bengal were in sky-high form. The Red and Golds were up against Mohun Bagan in the final of the 1975 IFA Shield.
East Bengal thrashed the Mariners 5-0 at the Mohun Bagan ground – it still remains the biggest win in the Kolkata Derby history. Surajit Sengupta, Shyam Thapa, Ranjit Mukherjee, and Subhankar Sanyal scored.
The loss was so devastating for the Mohun Bagan fanbase that a fan committed suicide with a note reading, “I will avenge this loss by becoming a Mohun Bagan footballer in my next birth.”
#5 Beating PAS Club (Iran) 1-0 in the IFA Shield final (1970)
The 1970s was a great era for the Red and Golds. The decade saw East Bengal win 25 major trophies and the first of the lot was the historic IFA Shield win in 1970.
East Bengal were up against Iranian side, PAS Club in the final, and a solitary goal from Parimal Day helped the Kolkata giants record a famous 1-0 win.
The win is still considered as one of Indian club side’s greatest wins over a major Asian football club from a major Asian football nation.
#4 Two consecutive National Football League titles (2002 and 2003)
East Bengal became the first Indian club to win back-to-back national league titles. They won the National Football League title in the 2002-03 season and followed it up with another league triumph the next campaign.
The only other Indian side to accomplish the same feat are Dempo SC, who won consecutive national leagues in 2006-07 and 2007-08.
#3 Quintuple Seasons (1973-74, 1974-75, 2002-03)
East Bengal are one of the only eight clubs in the world and the only Indian club to win five trophies in a single season. Whats more, the Red and Golds have achieved this remarkable feat thrice.
They won the Calcutta Football League, the Rovers Cup, the Durand Cup, the IFA Shield, and the Bordoloi Trophy in the 1972-73 season under PK Banerjee.
In 1973-74, also under the legendary PK Banerjee, East Bengal won the Calcutta Football League, the IFA Shield, the Rovers Cup, the DCM Trophy, and the Bordoloi Trophy.
After almost three decades, the Red and Golds won their third quintuple honour by winning the National Football League, the Calcutta Football League, the IFA Shield, the Durand Cup, and the ASEAN Cup, under Subhash Bhowmick.
#2 Reaching AFC Cup 2013 semi-finals unbeaten
The Red and Golds were in peak form before the AFC Cup in 2013. They had won three Federation Cup titles in four years (2009-10, 2010, and 2012) under Philippe De Ridder and Trevor James Morgan.
They topped their group by finishing above Selangor (Malaysia), Sai Gon Xuan Tanh (Vietnam) and Tampines Rovers (Singapore). The Red and Golds then bashed Myanmar side, Yangon United 5-1 in the Round of 16.
East Bengal went on to defeat Indonesian outfit, Semen Padang with a 2-1 aggregate over two legs in the quarter-finals. However, the Red and Golds bowed out of the tournament after losing 7-2 on aggregate to eventual champions, Al-Kuwait (Kuwait) in the semi-finals.
East Bengal, who lost 4-2 in Kuwait before succumbing to a 3-0 loss at the Salt Lake Stadium, became the second Indian club reach the AFC Cup semi-finals and the first to reach the stage unbeaten.
The Red and Golds also have represented India the most times in Asia, with 15 appearances in the Asian Club Championship, Asian Winners Cup and the AFC Cup.
#1 Winning ASEAN Cup 2003
East Bengal’s ASEAN Cup victory in 2003 is arguably the greatest achievement in their 100-year history. The Red and Golds began their campaign on a losing note.
After a 0-1 loss to Thai side, BEC Tero Sasana, East Bengal bounced back with a 6-0 win over the Philippines Army.
East Bengal then defeated Persita Tangerang (Indonesia), Petrokimia Putra (Indonesia), and BEC Tero Sasana (Thailand) in the quarter-final, semi-final, and the final with 2-1, 1-1 (7-6 on penalties) and 3-1 scorelines to lift the trophy.
As a result, the Red and Golds became the only Indian club to win an AFC-affiliated club tournament by getting the better of the AFC Champions League 2003 runners-up, BEC Tero Sasana in the final.
Also Read: Mohun Bagan: Top 5 title triumphs