East Bengal will play hosts to the Mariners on 12 February, Sunday as Mohun Bagan look to play catchup in the Kolkata Derby.
Footballing rivalries around the world have always been the subject of folklore amongst the fans of the game. Some of the most intensely fought rivalries in world football include the El Clasico (FC Barcelona – Real Madrid), The Old Firm Derby (Celtic-Rangers), Superclásico (Boca Juniors- River Plate) and a lot of others.
These games are a delight for the fans as the passions run riot during the games. Clashes between the fans of the clubs are commonplace during these matches. The atmosphere on the pitch is no different as the players go all out to win the bragging rights for the team as well as the fans.
Indian Football is no stranger to intense rivalries as the biggest rivalry comes from the city that is obsessed with football, Kolkata. The Kolkata Derby (or Calcutta Derby) takes place between the two mighty clubs in West Bengal, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.
Origins of the Kolkata Derby
The origins of the rivalry date back to the 1920s when an industrialist Suresh Chaudhari decided to form a football club that would give a challenge to Mohun Bagan, who are the oldest club in India, established in 1889.
The clubs have huge and dedicated fan bases around the world. Culturally, this derby is very similar to Scottish Premier League’s Old Firm derby, since a majority of the Mohun Bagan supporters represent the ‘nativist’ population (similar to Rangers FC) and a majority of the East Bengal fans represent the ‘immigrant’ population (similar to Celtic FC).
First Ever Clash
The two teams met for the first time in 1925 when East Bengal won the fixture 1-0. Nepal Chakraborty walked into the history books by scoring the only goal. Mona Dutta was the skipper of the winning side.
Statistics about the Derby
Till now, the Kolkata arch-rivals have played 345 matches against each other. East Bengal has won 127 matches, Mohun Bagan has won 114 matches and 113 matches ended in a draw.
Indian international Baichung Bhutia has tallied the most goals in derby matches (19 goals – 13 for EB and 6 for MB), with the diminutive forward transcending the city’s football divide by representing both clubs.
The most memorable derby of all took place in 1997 at the semi-final of the Federation Cup, when a remarkable crowd of 131,000 – a record attendance for any sport in India – filled a heaving Salt Lake Stadium. Appropriately enough, India’s most recognisable footballer, Baichung Bhutia, took centre stage, scoring a hat-trick as East Bengal triumphed 4–1 in the semi-final of the Federation Cup.
Summit Clash in the latest Derby
In the latest season of the Hero I-League, East Bengal sit atop the table with 19 points from 7 games being unbeaten so far. Mohun Bagan are also unbeaten with 16 points from 6 games. The derby will decide who takes the top spot on the table.
East Bengal will play hosts to the Mariners on 12 February, Sunday as coach Trevor Morgan will look to keep the top spot. Do not miss this exciting encounter which will have all the makings of a mouth-watering clash.